There are 3 main companies vying for the crown of “best tablet” for primary schools. iPads took an early lead a couple of years ago but the emergence of Android and Microsoft tablets have made the world of tablet computing in schools a much trickier place than ever before. Before tablet technology, most computers in Irish primary schools ran a version of Microsoft Windows and it didn’t really matter which version as they were all fairly compatible with each other so installing software wasn’t an issue. However, this is not the case with tablets as the various software or “apps” cannot be installed on different operating systems. For example, if one downloads an app for an iPad, one cannot transfer it to a Microsoft Surface, for example.
However, despite this, tablets do share a number of traits and with this in mind, this article aims to examine what do all tablets have in common and how this can open up opportunities for BYOD (bring your own device) for primary schools.
Camera and photo sharing apps
Almost all iPads and Androids have two cameras, a front-facing and rear-facing camera. All Microsoft Surface tablets have this feature. This allows pupils to take photographs. However, once a photo is taken, where does it go? The good news is that all app stores have good photo sharing or cloud storage services such as Flickr, OneDrive, DropBox, etc. It’s important to pick a service that is compatible with the various types of tablet so be sure to check this out.
All tablets have a built-in microphone, which gives everyone the ability to podcast. Couple this with a decent place to store the recordings, e.g. SoundCloud, you have everything you need for a decent podcasting service.
Similar to the normal camera, most devices have movie-making capabilities. YouTube is your obvious place to store all those great video casts but many schools are using apps like Vine and Tumblr.
All devices have compatible apps for WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr, the three major blogging platforms. This allows all pupils, no matter what device they have, to blog about their experiences
Note taking and sharing apps
Evernote is an app that allows pupils to share notes, photos, sounds recordings, etc. OneNote is another app. Both are compatible with all tablets on the market.
All tablets are internet-enabled, which effectively gives them all the ability to surf the web. Just be careful about those “pesky” Flash web sites as they don’t work on some tablets!
Atlas / Maps
Thanks mainly to Google, children now have access to interactive maps. All the operating systems have their own mapping tools but I think Google has the best one and it is available on all devices.
While academics might frown on Wikipedia, it’s good enough for us at primary level. All tablets give us access to Wikipedia through an app or through the Internet.
All devices allow you to read PDF files through Adobe Reader or some other vative tool. This can be very useful for shared reading programmes.
QR Code Readers
Using the camera, all devices have some form of QR Code reader to link pupils to web site and various apps.