Friday, March 25, 2011

What's with the tablets?

Since last year, the market for tablet (iPad and others) has dramatically increased. In fact, according to a recent article, there are more tablets and handhelds being sold than personal computers and laptops (SmartPhones pass PCs in sales). Within the context of this article, I would like to talk about two that have been very popullar in the news lately - the Motorola Xoom (Zoom) and the new Apple iPad. The reason for comparing these two is simply the specs are about the same.

What do they both have or don’t?

Both the Motorola Xoom and Apple iPad 2 have front and rear facing cameras. How cool is that! Imagine students being able to video tape examples of things they are doing in class. Imagine where students could go and interview people for projects, all with a tablet. Both say that battery life can last a full school day - Apple states the iPad will run for 10 hours - Motorola states the Xoom will run for 9 hours.

They both are missing some things. Apple has had a chance to improve since it’s first revision and has made some big improvements - lighter, thinner, and faster than the previous version. It still is missing the ability to support flash for web pages. Apple designs all of the hardware and the operating system from the ground up. All the research is done on the Apple campus. They invented the iOS, the operating system that runs on it’s iPads and iPods. On the other hand, the Motorola Xoom is built on the Android Operating System for tablets, Honeycomb. The Android Operating System is built by Google, which is sells to third party vendors like Motorola. Since Motorola did not make the Operating System, they have added cost that consumers will have to pay for. The Android System is really gaining popularity and Google has even launched an app store much like Apple has the iTunes store. There really is an “app” for almost anything.

Back to Education

So, imagine the possibilities of these devices in the classroom. Imagine a student carrying one that houses all of his/her textbooks. Imagine that same student creating a movie or a documentary about a specific subject. Imagine then, that student projecting and presenting to the entire class or even the entire school. Just think of the possibilities! A recent article I read even suggested the possibility of students bringing their own devices to school. Just like you have a list of “materials” needed each year for particular classes, maybe you have a list of “apps” students need to provide for your class. Each app is between $1.00 and $2.00, unless a very specific app is needed, in which the cost of the app could vary. A lot of educational apps are even free.

How to pick?

I tell those who are seriously considering purchasing these devices to go check them out first. There is an Apple Store in Omaha and you can go and see how this device works. Apple also has put stores inside of Best Buy stores. So, you could go to Best Buy and check out the Xoom and the iPad and compare them to each other.

The Future

A lot of companies are devoting time and money into smart phones and tablets and there is a huge competition among developers. Then, there is competition on the app side to develop an app that everyone needs. No matter what you or your school decides to do though, make sure you have a plan and are willing to follow through with it. The better the plan, the more bang you’ll get out of your technology purchases.