What is Tablet Computing?

In the past year, advances in tablet computers have captured the imagination of educators and museum professionals around the world. Led by the incredible success of the iPad, which in 2011 was selling at the rate of more than 3 million units a month, other similar devices such as the Samsung Galaxy and Sony's Tablet S have also begun to enter this rapidly growing new market. In the process, tablets (a form that is distinct from tablet PCs) have come to be viewed as not just a new category of mobile devices, but indeed a new technology in its own right, one that blends features of laptops, smart phones, and earlier tablet computers with always-connected Internet, and thousands of apps with which to personalize the experience. As these new devices have become more used and understood, it is clear that they are independent and distinct from other mobile devices such as smart phones, eReaders, or tablet PCs. With significantly larger screens and richer gestured-based interfaces than their smartphone predecessors, they are ideal tools for sharing content, videos, images and presentations because they are easy for anyone to use, visually compelling, and highly portable.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Nov 10, 2011The fact that I just started using a Samsung Galaxy tablet in early August 2011 as part of a training project I'm doing and already feel (after three months) as if tablets have been around forever is probably a good sign that this technology is on the fast track to relevancy for education, staff training, and training-teaching-learning overall. It's an incredibly easy tool to use; connects learners to a variety of resources in a way no other tool I use does; and, among other things, makes me feel as if I have the keys to a huge ever-expanding library filled with first-rate learning resources in my hands at all times. It also seems to me to be a tool that will make mobile learning even more important in our training-teaching-learning toolkit than it already is. There are numerous articles documenting how instructors are incorporating tablets into their work (this one, for example: http://www.iphonelife.com/issues/2011Sept-October/HowIPadHasChanged), and it feels as if this truly is one of those emerging technologies that emerged full-grown.
  • Tablets--and more specifically the applications that run on tablets--have the potential to enable students to connect, share information and collaborate. Technology by Polycom (http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Mobile-and-Wireless/Polycom-Expands-Collaboration-to-iPad-Android-Tablets-744803/ and Fuze Meeting (http://www.intomobile.com/2011/03/30/fuze-meeting-brings-hd-video-collaboration-ipad-2-android-honeycomb-tablets/) both take advantage of the dual video camera feature of the iPad2--an innovation that moves us beyond individual consumption & publication to a more collaborative model of learning and working with the device.- jasonr jasonr Nov 14, 2011
  • I am currently working on a project looking at giving iPad 2s to all of the students on our design course to free them from the computer labs and allow them to go out into the environment and draw inspiration from whatever source material they come across. The idea is that they will be able to photograph things that inspire them, then draw and/or make notes directly onto the images that they will then be able to pull into to their design projects. This is a whole new way of doing things that we hope will free them from the shackles imposed by studio-based computing, where the closest they get to the outside world is staring out of thew indow whilst their PC boots up.- damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Nov 17, 2011
  • Tablets are compelling - they provide instant on computing. the potential to replace print at least for meetings, for annotation of image and words, to bump with other devices, to tether other devices, geo location and AR.- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • Tablets, especially the latest releases with cameras, GPS and other sensors 'on board', make useful fieldwork devices for anthropology, archaeology, survey data collection, and for more easily accessing web resources while working or studying outside the lab or classroom.- paul.turner paul.turner Nov 20, 2011
  • Tablets are ideal devices for one-to-one learning.- Sam Sam Nov 13, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Nov 10, 2011The description fully captures what I'm seeing and experiencing at this point.
  • I think what's missing the "app" component. It's impractical to think that apps are completely independent of their devices. Although some apps are available everywhere, other apps (such as the videoconferencing apps mentioned above) are unique to a device. When people move to adopt a tablet, what they're often agreeing to is to adopt a specific application that is made possible by the device, and not just the device itself.- jasonr jasonr Nov 15, 2011
  • Moreover, according to research by Nielsen, approximately third of tablet users report using their laptops and desktops less often after owning a tablet (http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/connected-devices-how-we-use-tablets-in-the-u-s/). Thus, people see the tablet as a device that lets them substitute some of the functionality previously reserved for desktop or laptop computing--a trend that will undoubtedly continue to rise.- jasonr jasonr Nov 15, 2011
  • When we ran a project using the iPad 1, almost all of our subjects perceived the device as a way of consuming content rather than creating it, relying on their conventional desktops and laptops when it came to doing "serious research" and assignments, and I feel this perception needs to be addressed at all levels of educational organisations if tablets are to be seen as more than merely expensive toys. As with all mobile devices, institutional provision of hardware/software and training is essential to avoid less financially well of students missing out. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Nov 17, 2011
  • Tablets are aimed at the the individualist consumerist market - the ipad is also your online identity for purchasing the content you put on it for example - how does this facilitate democratic,p2p, wisdom of crowds.- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • Faculty are starting to want to create small and large scale custom apps that are highly targeted for their own teaching and research needs. Educational institutions need to think harder about how best to support the right mix of resources to help faculty create high quality apps without having to become programmers themselves.- paul.turner paul.turner Nov 20, 2011
  • More elaboration needed on their applications as in-the-classroom learning tools.- Sam Sam Nov 13, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Nov 10, 2011Let's start with the idea that this is already a technology well on its way to adoption, e.g., "1 in 20 primary school (elementary school) children in the UK own an iPad": http://www.ipadinschools.com/293/how-young-can-we-go-with-ipads/); it's already beginning to reach our youngest learners. And the impact is clear: A learner's ability to view an instructor's videos, posted documents, and other learning objects is another way of taking learning to where the learner is at the moment of need. A key phrase used by mobile-learning advocates is that mobile learning augments (rather than replaces) learning, and the tablet seems to be a powerful tool in moving us along in this augmentation process. An instructor's ability to meet learners' needs through the creative use of apps extends the instructor's potential for facilitating learning. And the easy interactions through social media tools via a tablet further facilitates the convergence we're seeing between our onsite-online interactions.
  • According to the Nielsen study mentioned previously, tablets are beginning to replace traditional desktop and laptop functionality. Thus, as tablets continue to expand hardware capabilities, and as app makers continue to exploit those capabilities, students will be doing less of their work in "traditional" computing labs, and will instead demand greater support for tablet-based computing. Moreover, as more schools incorporate tablets for teaching and learning, this adoption will continue to put pressure on LMS companies to create useful and friendly tablet-based alternatives to web-based LMS offerings.- jasonr jasonr Nov 15, 2011
  • Also see: 6 Reasons that Tablets are Ready for the Classroom: by Vineet Madam on Mashable: http://mashable.com/2011/05/16/tablets-education/ - jasonr jasonr Nov 14, 2011
  • Why confine students to sterile computer labs and classrooms when they could be out and about experiencing things for themselves, using tablets to collaborate with other students, and interact with their tutors. Don't get me wrong - there is still a place for chalk and tak in the 21st century, but does that adequately prepare our students for their future careers? I suspect not. The failure of LMS providers to keep up with technologies like the iPad goes to show how outdated their products are - perhaps if they spent less time selling, and more time developing, the exodus to open source systems by many institutions could be halted. Perhaps not. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Nov 17, 2011
  • Collaboration, content creation, contest digestion.- Sam Sam Nov 13, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project sharing form.