Thursday, January 20, 2011

Which tablet (slate) device is truly best for education?

Our previous 3 year technology plan provided all (or at least most) secondary teachers with a Tablet PC and a wireless projector in their classroom. This was a great effort to put technology in the hands (literally) of our staff. Elementary staff received smart boards for their classrooms and a netbook (in a similar effort to put the technology in everyone's hands). These were great initiatives and I would say have been fairly successful as our staff is much more comfortable with integrating technology at least from a content delivery standpoint.

Our next 3 year plan calls for handheld devices (presumably iPod Touches, use of cell phones in the classroom, and 'tablet' devices like the iPad or a similar device. Ultimately, students would be encouraged to use either a device that they already have or those provided by the school.

We are looking to pilot several tablet devices before the end of this school year so that we can integrate a device in the classroom next year (most likely in the form of a mobile lab or units that could be checked out based on classroom need).

What device seems to be best for use in education? The first thought that comes to mind is the iPad. It's a beautiful device that seems to have a pretty strong hold in the app market (not to mention Apple's reputation in education. There are a few downsides for sure. No Flash. Heaven forbid!!! No USB port??? Multitasking now exists. I wonder if not including multitasking has it's own possible benefit. Without multitasking, the device responds like a champ. Of course, there are times where not being able to have a note taking app open in addition to the web browser (or another app) could be downright frustrating. I guess that is no longer an issue. From a classroom perspective, the mere fact that it has great battery life and almost instant 'on' are huge benefits. We spend too much time waiting for our laptops on our carts to start up, log into the network, etc.
Maybe I've already convinced myself that the iPad is THE device, but I can't help but wonder (and our tech department wants to explore other devices) if there is an 'iPad killer' out there. Is there a device that might lend better to online text books? Is the absence of Flash enough to detract from the value of the iPad?
Some of the competitors include:

  • The Kno 'textbook tablet' comes in a single tablet and dual screen model. Kno is focusing on the education market and seems to tout the great value in reading and annotating text books as well as the many other inherent tablet features.
  • The Samsung Galaxy Tablet is an Android powered device with pretty impressive hardward specs. Full Flash support is definitely a plus as are the front and rear facing cameras as well as the video recording capability. I can see great application in the classroom between the use of web based flash content as well as skype calls with classes or 'guest speakers'. Is the 7" form factor a plus compared to the larger iPad or a minus? In some ways the 7" device seems like a nice compromise between the small iPod Touch and the larger iPad. I'm intrigued. Will the Android Market's growth work in the favor of android powered tablets?

  • The NOOKcolor may not have all of the features of a fully functional tablet device, but it does have a variety of apps that might make it a viable option (compared to a more traditional eReader). Not sure, but figured I'd throw it out there for discussion. I believe I heard some type of rumor about the NOOKcolor running Android. Was that a dream? The price could be a selling point.

  • The Archos Tablets - Archos has a line of tablets ranging in size from 2.8" for under $100 to a 16 gb 10" tablet (not out yet) for $349. Archos has been big on delivering great multimedia devices, so coupled with the functionality of the Android tablet at a low price point, this is another intriguing product.
  • The Kineo by Brainchild learning is clearly geared toward educational use with it's rugged design and admin controls (for filtering content, etc.). The website doesn't provide too much in terms of detail, but it is slated (no pun intended) for a February 1 release. The specs look ok, but it doesn't look like there is a camera (rear or front facing) included. Thanks to @Kimbrell for the comment.
  • the enTourage Edge and Pocket Edge - enTourage has released two dual screen devices. The edge is a 10" e-Reader on one side and Android slate on the other. The Pocket Edge is a 6" e-Reader and 7" slate. Both fold like a book and are full of features. Reviews that I have read lead me to believe that the devices may have their share of design flaws making both the e-Reader or Slate less than perfect. But, then again, it's hard to tell as a number of the reviews were written prior to it's official release. I'd like to think the devices may have undergone some tweaking since then. Whatever the case, each provides the user with the ability to read (and highlight, underline, annotate) an e-book on one side, while taking advantage of the other side for the full functioning Android apps, allowing for note taking, email, organization, multimedia (music, video, presentations, etc.). Each device has a camera as well (3megapixel in the larger device and 2megapixel in the pocket edge).
    For more information, visit:
    CNET Review
    Engadget Review "Yes, the Edge is a combination e-reader and a Android tablet -- it just doesn't quite work well as either. " --Engadget, 2010
    Pocket Edge Promo Video
    Tiger Direct TV Pocket Edge Review
    SLJ Video (and Text) entourage Edge Review

    My thought after reviewing some of the reviews and videos is that I might lean toward the Pocket Edge as the full size Edge seems quite bulky. I like the idea of the large screen, but think it misses the boat in terms of the appeal of a slate when it gets so bulky. I am hopeful that with updates and such it has (or will) overcome some of the negative points made in the reviews. It's interesting to me that you can't easily find the technical specs. I can't help but wonder about processor speed. Anyone out there have one? I'd love any first hand accounts.

So, help if you can. Do you have a personal tablet? Do you use a tablet in Education? Can you share some insights (positive or negative) about the particular device and integrating it in the classroom? Any thoughts on educational oriented apps (apple, android, or other) woudl help as well. I appreciate any feedback.


Kimbrell said...

I've heard that Brainchild is about to release a Tablet built specifically for education. Release date is Feb 1. See it here

rick said...

Our school is going through the 1to1 conversation with the might want to contact Gregg Miller at Wilmington Friends(de.) for his ideas.

rick grier-reynolds

Lois Mauch said...

My school district is looking a a new handheld devise to use in physical education as a way to assess our students on the go, (on the football field, in the swimming pool, in the gym). We need to have a devise compatible with windows mobile. Our state has adapted Power School so we are also looking for WIFI that can be controlled. With I-Touch they can log on as guest and we don't have control over the number of wireless stations being used. In education we need to have control over the wireless ports. The software we use is windows mobile so we need that platform. We looked at the tablet, we like all the features except that it is heavy. Next week we are piloting the HP slate. We are a PC district. Any information is welcome.Thanks!

Nancy Kuhl Melhorn said...

The January 2011 PCWorld has an article, p. 73-80 about "Why your next PC will be a Tablet" It looks like there is a lot of options out there, and they will be easier to get through TSA screening. Best wishes in making your choices, Nancy

Anna Schafer said...

These were great initiatives and I would say have been fairly successful as our staff is much more comfortable with integrating technology at least from a content delivery standpoint.projector service toronto