Along time ago I wrote a post questioning the added value of a tablet computer in a teacher’s hands.

We’ll shortly have access to a new class of tablets, slates, whatever you want to call them, or at least we should very shortly.

There appears to be new technologies emerging from Apple, OLPC, Dell, NotionInk , and yes, even Google.  There’s even the Mag+, which seems to be more reader than anything else.

Do I want one.  You bet I do.

And when they appear, especially the Apple product (expected January 26, 2010), can’t you just see the Twitter firestorm?  And if you thought the lines at the local Apple store were long for the iPhone, just wait…

So, what does this mean for education?

Probably very little.  With a price point that is anticipated well-beyond the price of a netbook (with the exception of the OLPC at around $100, predicted by to come in at $75 bucks), your local school, and their limited budgets will have very little wiggle room for acquiring these devices.

And they shouldn’t anyway, because most are far from having the organizational readiness required to plan for, implement, support, sustain, and evaluate any kind of program that places these technologies in a student’s hands.

In the middle of all of this, across a gradient that ranges from the desktop/laptop on the left, to the future tabets on the right, is the netbook.  Interestingly, some have predicted that this will mean the end of the netbook.

I don’t know about that, and I won’t speculate, but I’m hoping it makes them even more affordable, so that I can get my hands on more of them.

That means getting more of them into classrooms, of course, where teachers and kids can beat them up, so we can see how all of these technologies play out in the context of our school-wide technology and literacy goal (Incorporate new and evolving technologies to support the development of literacy.)

The eventual access to a machine that will support many of the same features many of us enjoy on an iPhone or Android is fascinating.  And there is no doubt that these will probably make us all rethink what mobile computing looks like.

But just not in schools.

UPDATE:  Apple Tablet apparently to ship in March.  See Mashable for the story.

6 Responses to “Tablet Schmablet Redux”
  1. These tablets, slates, whatever they decide to call them do have promise for teachers and students. I agree the price these devices will determine their adoption by different classes of users. However, the biggest determining factor will be the interface which has been the bane of such devices in the past. The only successful touch interface that has been remotely successful is the iPhone/iPod Touch interface. People I know who have the other touch devices have been disappointed with them which leads to failure in the market place. Apple would probably be the best bet in making a usable interface but they usually put a high cost to their computing devices. If Apple treats the rumored slate like their iPods, then the price point should drop fairly quickly. Google is also a contender with it’s Chrome operating system it is developing.

    In my 2009 year-ending blog post (, I predicted by the end of the new decade students will carry slates which are computing devices and e-book readers. Classrooms will have touch interface displays that can display individual slates or be used independently. Watching stuff like this develop is one of the biggest reasons I love working in Educational Technology.

  2. Darin King says:

    I agree with both David and John. The tablet, as a form factor, is perfect for education. But the expected cost premium and lack of “real” educational content focused on replacing traditional textbooks are significant barriers for implementation during the next 3-5 years.

    A few years ago, I sat for two days in an Apple Executive Briefing using a HP tablet. It was an intentional and deliberate act that I did for a number of reasons. The Apple reps were continually asking me questions about “why” and “how” I was using the tablet PC. By their reaction, I felt they were interested because they saw the educational viability of the form factor but also concerned because they didn’t have a product to compete with it at the time. I have since had the same reaction and conversation with Apple reps regarding Netbooks.

    The Apple Education people get it, but Apples corporate obsession with producing what they see as “premium” products does not always produce products that are immediately viable for education. I have no doubt that the Apple tablet, when it is finally released, will be a very cool product. It will also most likely be too expensive. Time will tell, but I doubt that the Apple tablet will be a significant player in K12 for a number of years.

    The netbook form factor is available now at a price point that is very “doable” for most schools to consider in a 1:1 implementation in the near future. A round or two of a netbook 1:1 will give the industry time to develop the low cost tablet concept into a educationally effective AND cost effective student tool.

    We can all hope that John’s prediction of 1:1 student slates by the end of the decade comes true. But we can’t afford to wait and need to develop netbook based 1:1 implementations sooner rather than later.


  3. Jason Kern says:

    I do think that the Tablet will be a significant player in the future of newspapers, magazines and eventually books. However, I think it will take a while until they are truly seen in classrooms just because education is slow to adopt.

    What I am more interested in is how they will affect how we view writing. I see a real change to hyperlinks, photo slide shows and video journalism in the ‘real world’. Will that change how we teach writing?

    I think it may take a while for Tablets to be seen IN education but will it make any change TO education?

  4. Todd Wandio says:

    As another tool in the arsenal, I see a lot of benefits to use of talets in schools. If the durability is longer than that of the textbook, which is basically two years of steady use, then cost effectiveness is a definite plus. The tablet can access all of a student’s text requirements, this saves time and money. It has the advantage of immediacy, flexibility, and connectivity, all of which are essential components of tools for the 21st Century learner. I don’t know if it will change writing, as some have voiced, but it will certainly change the delivery of information both to the students, and with the teacher.

  5. DSJ says:

    @Darin. I agree-it seems that there will (or might) be a series of applications of these technologies. I would think that most schools considering 1:1 would start with netbooks. We’ll have to see what the tablets bring, it terms of added value beyond what a netbook offers. I’m better that I can get 3 netbooks for every one tablet, at least at first.

    @Jason: Excellent points, will the technology drive instruction in a different direction, and will they make a difference IN education? I don’t think we have history on our side in this question–how has technology changed teaching and learning so far? We still teach writing the same way, even though the affordances of the new tablets can probably be achieved by what we have now-its just in a slicker package. Many talk about connective writing, with the inclusion of hyperlinks, images, etc-basically blogging. How well are we doing that in any school setting on a systemic level?

    @Todd: But what will be the source of that information? Will it be online textbooks? Or will schools, teachers, and kids be responsible for locating and building a content knowledge repository of some kind? And think about the perception hurdle that that would create…in my belief, most parents want to see a textbook. They had textbooks, after all. Also think about the word text…book. Its a book filled with text, completely opposite of the immediacy, flexibility and connectivity that you, and I and many, wish we had.

  6. @Jason Education might be quicker at adopting tablets than other technologies not because of the tech factor but health factors. Our kids are carrying heavy book bags and when e-reader/tablets become affordable parents will demand their adoption. Also, the savings in space and time spent managing textbook issue and turn-in will make these devices more attractive as well.

Leave a Reply