Tablets for what ails you

various tablets

As the world has turned gonzo for tablets, I have not been immune.

While we do not yet have a district-wide student device implementation plan (hey, it’s California – we barely keep the electric bill paid), I frequently field the same question from educators and parents alike: Which device do I choose for my student?

So, I turn to my closest reference material:  my kids, and for one of them, the answer turned on her algebra book.

I have a slender, 75-pound 7th grader at home, one who was issued about 25 pounds of textbooks in late August.  Visions of Dickensian, hunched-over 12-year-olds hauling firewood danced in my head.  When, during back-to-school night, her algebra teacher said the online, digital version of her text was preferable due to its interactivity, I had a new 7” tablet ordered within 24 hours.

While the algebra book was PDF-based, the interactive features were dependent on Flash, so the entire Apple suite was out of the picture.  Another of my daughter’s teachers was having students set up Google accounts, so that piece of information led me to seriously consider Android tablets as I was aware that the integration of features and tools in the Google-verse was pretty seamless.

This illustrates the crooked path to the answer to the “which device?” question; it’s not like choosing bed sheets.

Following are some of the factors to be considered in choosing your tablet:

  • Which suite of apps will serve your student best?  Each of the major app warehouses (Apple, Google/Android, Kindle) provide often mutually-exclusive applications.  There is some overlap between them, so you need to do your research.
  • Over the lifetime of the tablet, will your student age out of one app suite and into another?
  • What level of productivity apps (word processing, etc.) will your student require?  Is one better than another for keying-in data?  Our home experiments indicate that a negative data-entry experience will result in non-use pretty quickly.  This also informs what size tablet to consider.  For instance, our 7th grader’s hands fit the QWERTY touch-pad of the 7” far more comfortably than a larger tablet.
  • Will the on-board browser run the textbooks you need?  If not, will the tablet’s operating system permit you to download a compatible browser such as Firefox?  Are the texts perhaps available as an ebook download?
  • Does your student have access to Wi-Fi in the location the tablet will be used?  Do you have Wi-Fi at home, or does your student’s district have an open Wi-Fi network?  Bring-your-own-device policies vary widely, so check with your child’s school.

In addition, you’ll have decisions to make about on-board memory, how the tablet will be used by your student, etc.  NPR recently did this overview story on tablets, Tis the season for tablets, well-worth consulting.


2 Responses to Tablets for what ails you

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