What are the benefits of Tablets vs. Laptops for Schools?

Education has taken a giant leap forward, with digital tools in common use in classrooms. Students today may not even know what a blackboard is. If they do, they may consider it something like a dinosaur. But when it comes to tablets and laptops in the classroom, students are giving an astounding affirmative vote, but they are showing a definite preference according to most studies. The digital divide will be hard to cross later if teachers are not using at least these two tools in the classroom. There are some who favor the tablet, and others who use the laptop as the go-to tool.

One source, Techcrunch, writes that kids today are at home using their tablets more than the laptop for accessing the internet, playing games and watching videos. The article about the subject reports that tablet use is rising across the board, and that is has become the device that children feel that they must have. Their source is a research company by the name of Ofcom. Teachers can capitalize off this tablet obsession by making tablets a common tool in the classroom. And they can use them in the same ways that kids use them at home, by spinning things a little differently.

In order to get the necessary curriculum into the classroom through tablet use, teachers can make or use existing videos that help with content enrichment, exposure and even tests. The teacher can also use tablets for playing learning games. A teacher can create learning stations with such games, or activities that reinforce learning. There is a flood of games on the internet that help students to grasp and master content. For Math alone, you will see learning sites like Mr. Mussbaum, coolmathgames.com and many others. Mussbaum and some others specify that their games are for tablet users, although they may be configured for laptops as well. Some of the games are arcade style, while others are delivered in other forms.

Tachertube.com, watchknowlearn.com and many other sites have an explosion of educational videos that cover content ranging from the solar system to various cultures around the world and the animal kingdom. As one site indicated, namely edudemic, teachers can expose students to new content knowledge, supplement the learning that’s taking place in the classroom and inspire them through educational videos. There is even a YouTube channel specifically dedicated to education.

The same article, which explored the use of laptops, has dropped 68% while tablet use has grown from 15%-42% since 2012. It’s important to mention that the article credited the drop of smartphone ownership as part of the reason why the tablet holds more appeal than the laptop.

One master teacher, who indicates that they were trained to use laptops for teaching, reported that she found that students preferred tablets over laptops. She cited a few reasons for the preference, as follows: the tablet is smaller and lightweight, the tablet is easier to store and they have faster start-up times. She said she finds tablets great for creating content. Narrated screencast and digital storytelling are two high potential learning platforms geared toward creating content that seem easier for students to navigate with tablets versus laptops.

This same teacher, who is also an educational technologist, pointed out that she likes laptops for the older students because they can learn trouble-shooting through the devices. She felt that students need a basic grasp of computers, and that laptops can give them that experience.

Online curriculum and apps seem to be here to stay. Both have changed the landscape of the teaching and learning experience. Both are accessible through laptops and tablets.

Joseph Morris, Director of Market Intelligence for the Center for Digital Education, reports that classrooms are continuing to evolve with new technology.

On the center’s website, it indicates that a new Horizon Report came out in September 2016 to show where classrooms are needing to go in order to optimize use of learning technology in the near future.

Samantha A. Becker, the NMC Horizon Project senior director was quoted as stating, “We believe it’s important to set a precedent that technology that’s not in service of promoting better teaching and learning practices is just a set of devices.” She is also researcher and lead writer of the series of Horizon reports.

One article stayed away from the tablet versus laptop argument, and instead focused on the fact that educators needed to look at the features and conveniences that they want a device to offer. That being said, it seems that the decision is a matter of who is making the important decision, and what their goals and anticipated lessons will involve