Buyer's guide to tablets
Tablets are taking the world by storm, and the classroom is no exception. Jamie Stephens helps you make the right choice for your school
Since Apple unveiled the iPad in 2010, it seems the world has gone tablet crazy. Education is no exception, with more and more schools keen to try tablets in the classroom. The tablet is certainly an attractive proposition; models are available to suit nearly every budget, and as a result they’re a relatively cheap way of expanding the reach of technology in schools. A long battery life – most clock in somewhere between 7-10 hours – also means they can be charged overnight and comfortably last through the school day.
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For younger children, tablets can be a great way of interacting with technology from a young age. A touch interface tends to be more natural than using a keyboard and mouse, and even primary students will find them much easier to get to grips with than a traditional PC.
So what should you look for when taking the plunge and purchasing a tablet computer? One of the first areas to consider is the screen. Tablet displays typically vary in size from 7in to around 11in. Smaller screen sizes will naturally make the device smaller and more portable, which is ideal for personal use, but a larger screen will be better suited if a tablet is to be used as a collaboration tool, especially if you are going to have two or three children crouched around it using it together.
A larger tablet is also more versatile. A 7in model is great for educational apps and web browsing, but can be awkward and cramped if you’re typing. A 10in to 11in tablet has more room for your fingers to work and, with a dockable or Bluetooth keyboard, can make a viable alternative to a netbook.
It’s also worth giving some thought to storage space. A lot of tablets come with 16GB of storage, which is plenty for most uses but will quickly fill up if you plan to store a lot of video or media-intensive apps. In most cases, it’s worth buying a tablet with a microSD slot or similar to allow for later expansion since, unlike laptops and desktop PCs, the built-in storage can’t be upgraded.
Operating systems and apps
When purchasing a tablet for the classroom, you need to think about more than simply whether to choose Apple’s iOS or the Android operating system for your devices. One of the benefits of Android is that you are not at the mercy of a sole hardware manufacturer, but it’s worth bearing in mind that not all Android tablets are alike. With Android, manufactures are free to modify the OS as much or as little as they like, so an Android tablet from Acer, for example, may have a different user interface to one made by Asus. Even different devices from the same manufacturer may not have the same interface, which could be a problem if you want to maintain a degree of consistency between your devices.