Apple has led the way in the tablet market since the launch of their iPad in the USA in April 2010. It is hard to believe that the iPad has only been on the market in Ireland for just 16 months since its launch here on the 23rd July 2010. Today, a number of schools at first and second level have begun to use the Apple iPad as a tool for learning. Many teachers are asking is it time for me as a teacher to purchase a personal tablet or whether our school should think about purchasing tablets for teacher and pupil use in the school? If you are asking this question, you may be interested in reading a blog posting entitled “6 Reasons Tablets are Ready for the Classroom” by Vineet Madan who is Vice President of McGraw-Hill Higher Education eLabs on the Mashable website at http://mashable.com/2011/05/16/tablets-education/. While the focus of Vineet Madan’s posting is focussed at the higher level education system, I think that many of his points are equally relevant to first and second level. His first observation is that Tablets are the best way to showcase textbooks as they can offer enhanced ebook features such as weblinks, graphics, animation and video. This is very interesting coming from someone with a publisher’s perspective. Indeed, in our own school one of our iPad apps Animal Life HD published by Hulmode, features video etc. and takes up over a Gb of disc space. Some of the other points that he makes include that tablets integrate with the cloud, some very innovative software that is very reasonably priced, in the form of apps are being developed for tablets, and tablets are becoming more available. In 2011 we have seen some successes and indeed some failures, with new models being released all of this year from a number of other manufacturers such as Motorola, HTC, Samsung, Acer, Amazon etc. The latest tablet to the market is Amazon’s 7 inch Kindle Fire.
Basically, when it comes to tablets, one can decide between two operating systems Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android. Apple uses a closed ecosystem whereby every app has to be submitted for approval to Apple before it becomes available for download on the iTunes store. Some users resent not having the choice to decide what apps they will install. For the school setting, I think the fact that Apple has put apps available on the iTunes store through a quality approval system has some merits. Google’s Market Place is a good source for apps for Android based tables thought not all tablets based around Google’s Android operating system can access all the apps on the Android Market Place. It depends on whether the particular tablet has met all of Google’s requirements. This is something you should check up on at the time of purchase. A useful guide to purchasing “Android, iPad or Kindle Fire?” can be found on this link – http://google.about.com/od/socialtoolsfromgoogle/ss/Should-I-Buy-Android-Ipad-Or-Kindle-Fire.htm