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Not a Bitter Pill to Swallow - Tablet Computers

By ITS Education Asia

Tablet Computer in Education

Although travellers looking around at fellow passengers on the MTR could be forgiven for thinking that the only use for an Apple iPad is to play games, it is in fact fast becoming an important educational tool. City University’s School of Law, for example, is currently piloting the use of iPads. Their students will be able to download course materials via Wi-Fi or 3G, ensuring that they have everything that they need for their lectures and tutorials.

The most obvious advantage of a tablet computer such as an iPad, is the huge amount of information that can be crammed into a very small piece of space. There have been numerous studies that have identified the harm children can suffer from carrying heavy bags to school. Effects can include poor posture in later life and, in extreme cases, spinal damage. At around 0.6kg, an iPad is much lighter than a typical school textbook, which is likely to weigh between 1.3kg and 2.4kg – and it can ‘contain’ potentially thousands of textbooks within that 0.6kg. In cities such as Hong Kong where space is at a premium, schools could conceivably convert their school libraries into classrooms and make their library texts available to students’ PCs via a wireless connection.

There are many other arguments in favour of tablet PCs. Electronic textbooks can easily be updated after their initial publication. Once a paper textbook is published, it cannot be added to or amended, and so students are forced to buy potentially expensive new editions of textbooks which may have only a handful changes in them. Electronic textbooks can be easily updated to ensure that students are up to speed with the very latest developments in a particular subject: all students need is access to an Internet connection to download the update.

Although iPads may seem a costly investment at around US$600, so are textbooks. A recent report by the Associated Press suggests that many US schools consider iPads more cost-effective than textbooks. New entrants to the tablet PC market such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire, will result in such hardware becoming more available to a much wider market. Tablet PCs not only give teachers and students access to cost-effective textbooks, they also enable them to download a wealth of public domain e-books from websites such as Project Gutenberg. In addition, students with access to streaming video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, can access documentaries, drama productions and movies that are relevant to their studies.

Tablet PCs also enable teachers and students to make use of educational applications that enhance the learning experience, with examples including apps that allow teachers to provide more effective demonstrations of the process of solving a maths problem or that enable students to take quizzes. With the advent of iOS 5, iPad users will, in an Apple TV-enabled classroom, be able to display materials directly onto a TV or projector screen – so no more messing around with memory sticks or projectors!

Matt Wisbey

Dulwich College Singapore

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

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