What is Tablet Computing?


In the past two years, advances in tablets have captured the imagination of educators around the world. This category is led by the incredible success of the iPad, which at the time of publication had sold more than 85 million units and is predicted by GigaOM to sell over 377 million units by 2016. Other similar devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Kindle Fire, the Nook, Sony's Tablet S, and the Microsoft Surface have also entered this rapidly growing market. In the process, the tablet (a device that does not require a mouse or keyboard) has come to be viewed as a new technology in its own right, one that blends features of laptops, smartphones, and earlier tablet computers with always-connected Internet and thousands of apps with which to personalize the experience. As these new devices have become more used and understood, it has become even clearer that they are independent and distinct from other mobile devices such as smartphones, e-readers, or tablet PCs. With significantly larger screens and richer gesture-based interfaces than their smartphone predecessors — and a growing and ever more competitive market — they are ideal tools for sharing content, videos, images, and presentations because they are easy for anyone to use, visually compelling, and highly portable. Tablets have gained traction in education because users can seamlessly load sets of apps and content of their choosing, making the tablet itself a portable personalized learning environment.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - guus guus Oct 21, 2013Tablets are more and more emerging as powerful tools, also for learning and teaching purposes. Those who always believed that we would make a huge step forward in our teaching when we would be able to make personalized learning a reality, understand very well that tablets serve them hand and foot.

    But there are some important preconditions, like

    ü Without well-prepared teachers it will not work
    ü The teachers need to take care of a suitable learning environment and apply different apps
    ü There has to be an agreement among all parties involved that the use of ‘social software’ will normally not be allowed.

- Neil.Ingram Neil.IngramÑeil Ingram I agree with guus, the teachers need to be well-prepared, in the sense they have to be prepared to cede some control to the students. My mini-mooc course (http://catalyst-academy.org/course/planning-enriching-digital-experiences/) is exploring these ideas. I am also working with schools to directly embed these ideas in school culture. The pedagogical approaches are complementary to the selection of apps and help to create a suitable learning environment.
- deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Nov 3, 2013 I also agree that teachers need to think about the difference using these devices will create in the learning environment. Many of the instances I have seen are not much more than traditional classroom pedagogy (it's just the textbooks are electronic). What needs to be challenge are teachers basic assumptions about teaching and learning and work out what affordances these devices enable for redesigning traditional learning environments.


  • - claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Oct 30, 2013 Our Danish experiences are similar to those described by Guus. Tablets have their potential but we are challenged that they are not sufficient as the only device – they are not suitable to write major reports etc. so they students will need 3 devices: their smartphone, laptop and tablet (mobile rules!). Furthermore we see a convergence between the three as smartphones getting bigger screens and laptops getting touchscreens and detachable screens.
  • Devices can support different activities in education (and broader): consumption of media, interaction with media and the creation of media. For consumption and interaction the tablet is unparalleled in its simplicity. Creation using tablets is more limited but new interface design offers much there aswell. In K-12 education this simplicity is very important, a tablet computers requires (almost) no management, and schools should not attempt this in my opinion (no locking down, trying to prevent installation of apps, limiting the set of apps on a tablet). It is a personal device, a number of clear rules need to be agreed upon, within those rules I have seen schools where 13 year olds use ipads all day in school without causing much extra work in terms of IT management. The simplicity consists of easy app management (finding, installing, using and removing apps), OS upgrades and overall use of a tablet. Children simply start using them, teachers need training but this has to come from their own motivation and ambition (within their teaching practise). - M.vanWetering M.vanWetering Oct 21, 2013 - totally agree, this leaves nothing for me to add :-) - helga helga Oct 26, 2013 - Jeroen.Bottema Jeroen.Bottema Oct 29, 2013 - Pieter.Swager Pieter.Swager Oct 30, 2013- gabriel.rubio.navarro gabriel.rubio.navarro Nov 3, 2013 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Nov 3, 2013 Rather than "training" I think the focus should be on teacher "learning" . I particularly like the idea of not locking down the devices (devices by and large are are not locked down at home) so this enables the students and teachers to discuss big idea such as copyright, cyberbullying and all the other issues around safe and ethical use of the internet in context.

  • tablets have a great potential for learning and teaching purposes as they (can) represent the "missing link" between formal and informal learning in school education. The wide level of penetration of tablets into families make it a tool available to children to play and possibly learn acquiring both transversal competences and knowledge. There are millions of apps to learn how to wirte or spell a word, for instance. - stefania.aceto stefania.aceto Oct 21, 2013 - Jeroen.Bottema Jeroen.Bottema Oct 30, 2013 - Pieter.Swager Pieter.Swager Oct 30, 2013 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Nov 3, 2013 agree that it can form a bridge between "in-school" and "out of school" activity.- stefania.bocconi stefania.bocconi Nov 3, 2013


  • It is difficult in my view to separate tablets from apps - stefania.aceto stefania.aceto Oct 21, 2013 < Yes and no - I think that in many cases apps are more important actually than the devices themselves. Using external image arrow-10x10.png might make it possible for apps to be used on different tablets with different operating systems. - u.simmetsberger u.simmetsberger Oct 22, 2013 - Jeroen.Bottema Jeroen.Bottema Oct 30, 2013 :Agreed, and in general, apps that are created specifically for tablet-use are more interactive, have a complex navigation-system and are more focussed on 'creation', compared to apps that are designed for smartphone use, which seem to have more of a focus on 'consumption'. The reason why the screen size and processing power. This distinction between apps for tablets and smartphones is not black and white of course.

  • In my opinion, this technology is getting more and more important in K12-education. After all, tablets are getting more and more popular (in Austria, about 1/3 of the households with kids aged 11 and older already have a tablet) and kids are very motivated and interested in working with them. A tablet does not need a lot of time until it is ready for use and it is - in my opinion - self explaining and thus also suitable for younger children or children with special needs. I fully agree about rules to be set by the schools/agreements to be made between school, students and parents but in my opinion the devices the kids already have should definitely be used in education and not be banned from classrooms. They are a part of everyday life and in my opinion it should also be a part of school education to teach responsible use and to show ways how to take advantage of the features a tablet has to offer. - u.simmetsberger u.simmetsberger Oct 22, 2013

  • As a teacher I had a chance to use many different technologies (taking pupils to computer rooms, using a set of netbooks, an interactive whiteboard, etc.) but I found tablets (iPads in particular) the most efficient ones: they start with just a click of a button, are easy to use and they have all necessary tools for education like ebooks, note taking, sketching, video and audio recording, etc. There are thousands of apps as well, but even the most common educational activities like searching for information on the net, sharing or reflection can be carried out more efficiently with the use of tablets. Besides, taking into considaration new formats of digital coursebooks (e.g. ibooks) which are best explored on tablets I am sure that in future they will definitely replace the printed ones. - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Oct 22, 2013

  • We know relatively little so far about the merits of different screen sizes in different educational contexts, and we tend to discuss 'tablets' in quite a generic manner - everything from the original iPAD, to iPAD minis, iPODs, 'phablets' (between phone and tablet) etc. Is an iPAD mini as useful as a full size iPAD? In principle yes, but in practice perhaps not? Also, we need to think beyond personal devices or a BYOD approach to a future where individuals use many devices, some of which they personally own and others they use casually - what I would refer to as an 'Any Device Anywhere' approach (ADA). What would a seamless environment look like in such circumstances? Suppose the learner (or teacher) simply links to any device without complex log in routines (e.g., wirelessly through a wearable personal identity device). Tablets are an important step on the way to somewhere, but we need to think more broadly. - jimdevine jimdevine Oct 24, 2013 Totally agree - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Nov 3, 2013 I agree too - stefania.bocconi stefania.bocconi Nov 3, 2013


  • Utrecht University in The Netherlands evaluated a couple of 'iPad experiments' (Ritzen, 2012). Participating students and teachers listed pro's and con's of using the tablet in education. Among the pro's where the light weight of the tablet, the small screen size, the long battery load and user friendliness of the tablet and it's operating system. There was no need for printing documents anymore, it supports a paperless classroom. They used the iPad in class, in work meetings, had access to all kinds of content, including each others input. During classes and meetings students and teachers liked the fact that no one was 'hiding' behind the 'big' laptop screen. Participating students mentioned that the apps improved their planning (agenda), communication and the exchange of information with fellow students and teachers (via apps like Dropbox and Skype). An important con was that the tablet was not very suitable for creation/producing texts or multimedia-projects with a complex structure. The tablet was not seen as a replacement for the laptop. - Jeroen.Bottema Jeroen.Bottema Oct 30, 2013 Agree, the opportunity for students to collaborate around a flat tablet screen provides a distinct advantage over vertical or near vertical laptop and desk top screens - there's some research on this completed certainly in South America and I suspect by now elsewhere - Gavin Gavin Oct 30, 2013As some of you are saying, we see tablets as good for some niche of tasks, but productivity requires other tools, maybe hybrids? - gabriel.rubio.navarro gabriel.rubio.navarro Nov 3, 2013 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Nov 3, 2013 Agree, there is no one device that can do everything you want, if we examine our own use I am sure we all use at least 3 devices on a daily basis to cover the range of things we do. - stefania.bocconi stefania.bocconi Nov 3, 2013 Agree too, depending on their learning needs, students might need a different device, with different capabilities for different tasks (see Dixon’s diagram, http://blogs.msdn.com/cfs-filesystemfile.ashx/__key/communityserver-blogs-components-weblogfiles/00-00-01-61-40/3771.pedagogicalcapability.png and full report here http://www.slideshare.net/Microsofteduk/bring-your-own-device-to-school-whitepaper).


(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The very different paradigm in using and managing a tablet vs a laptop computer. The tablet has one user and (therefore) a much easier operating system, no file system or other complex concepts which make the management of laptops so much more complicated. It usually offers a days work/study on one battery load and is easily connected to wifi, these relatively simple things matter a lot within smaller schools who have no IT staff of their own. - M.vanWetering M.vanWetering Oct 21, 2013

  • Tablets require external image arrow-10x10.png to connect them to other computing environments (other devices) and to offer safe storage of data being produced on tablets. - M.vanWetering M.vanWetering Oct 21, 2013 Agree - Pieter.Swager Pieter.Swager Oct 30, 2013 In Upper Austria, we are introducing a external image arrow-10x10.png for schools and following the BYOD-approach, this can be very relevant for schools. After all, lately the device itself is getting less and less important and is frequently seen as only the means of delivering the functionalities - of course this also applies to desktop virtualization. - u.simmetsberger u.simmetsberger Oct 22, 2013 We see in our region cloud and tablets as part of the same model as well - gabriel.rubio.navarro gabriel.rubio.navarro Nov 3, 2013


  • resistance from authorities is missing, and this could hinder the innovation potential of tablets. In Italy, for instance, the Classi2.0 program sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Education allows schools to choose how to digitalise classes using the funds provided by the Ministry. Choice is between Tablets and Multimedia Interactive Boards mainly and is determined by the attitude of the school manager towards technologies. Penetration of Boards is much stronger than penetration of tablets as in most cases these are not yet accepted as technological supports that can enter the classroom (fun vs work; autonomy of kids and lack of control by teachers etc). - stefania.aceto stefania.aceto Oct 21, 2013 We found that interactive boards prepared the field in an effective way for further deployment of other devices, as teachers get confidence with them and are ready to pass to other technology - gabriel.rubio.navarro gabriel.rubio.navarro Nov 3, 2013


  • Infrastructure in schools is also very important - schools have to be careful that their WiFI-connection offers sufficient bandwidth. - u.simmetsberger u.simmetsberger Oct 22, 2013 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Nov 3, 2013 Agree

  • Another important aspect might be peer teaching and "teaching the teacher"-approaches as a lot of kids really grow up with tablets and might know better how to work with them than the educators themselves. - u.simmetsberger u.simmetsberger Oct 22, 2013 - absolutely- helga helga Oct 26, 2013

  • Focus on individual becomes more important than ever. No matter if pupils use their personal iPads or school ones, class management requires new approaches and even understanding. Old approaches (e.g. pupils' control being the focus of a lesson) will not do in these new situations. - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Oct 22, 2013

  • Two points which I think are missing from the discussion above are as follows. First, because tablets are significantly cheaper than other computers, they might replace printed textbooks in some well-funded schools. However, tablets are currently much more expensive and much more complicated to use than the familiar paper technology of printed textbooks and students' exercise books, so I think for the immediate future the only thing tablets are likely to replace is laptops and desktops and, like laptops and desktops, they won't be used very much. Second, tablets are great for reading, but they are not good for writing because they don't have full-sized keyboards. This seriously limits their usefulness for studying. - paul paul Oct 28, 2013 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Nov 3, 2013 It is very easy to get snap on or other types of keyboards that can be used for writing and they are getting increasingly cheaper. Yes, but, at present, if you add a keyboard to a tablet, you will have spent almost as much money as buying a laptop. The tablet is then no longer significantly cheaper than a conventional computer.- paul paul Nov 3, 2013

  • To be efficient tablets need two other components : Teachers training and apps availibility. Have a look at the difficulties of the Los Angeles half-billion-dollars IPAD plan due to lack of apps ("produced" by Pearson) http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/25/10pearson_ep.h33.html - Jean-Pierre.Berthet Jean-Pierre.Berthet Oct 31, 2013

  • We find that when we talk about tablets in schools some families talk about health worries: too much time with screens? Maybe it has to be considered to find a good balance of activities with and without tablets... - gabriel.rubio.navarro gabriel.rubio.navarro Nov 3, 2013

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on European schools education?

  • Tablets offer computing that does not get in the way of teaching and learning, its just there when needed, just like the pen and paper are/were. - M.vanWetering M.vanWetering Oct 21, 2013 -- helga helga Oct 26, 2013 - Jeroen.Bottema Jeroen.Bottema Oct 30, 2013 - Pieter.Swager Pieter.Swager Oct 30, 2013
  • it can promote the development of both transversal skills and knowledge, it poses challenges related to funding (who pays for a 1:1 model?) and equity (if we consider BYOD models) - stefania.aceto stefania.aceto Oct 21, 2013 agree - gabriel.rubio.navarro gabriel.rubio.navarro Nov 3, 2013


  • BYOD is an attractive alternative to buying devices for a whole school/class. There are very cheap tablets out there (and some schools also offer support for parents buying them) and experience shows that tablets are used more frequently if they actually belong to the person who's working with them. - u.simmetsberger u.simmetsberger Oct 22, 2013 - claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Oct 30, 2013 Tablets are often more configurable for learners with disabilities and increasingly they'll expect to be able to use them in school. - roger.blamire roger.blamire Oct 30, 2013

  • If we are able to use tablets to their full potential, I see the most positive impact on European schools education with it becoming more student-centered than ever, with more teacher-student cooperation and closer links between inside and outside class environments. - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Oct 22, 2013 - Jeroen.Bottema Jeroen.Bottema Oct 30, 2013

  • For impact, schools will need to demonstrate a digital strategy allied to strong leadership in digital learning. This in turn needs to be supported by national/regional policies and curricula that understand and embrace the potential of digital learning. - jimdevine jimdevine Oct 24, 2013 agree - stefania.bocconi stefania.bocconi Nov 3, 2013

  • Recent data from BESA (British Educational Suppliers Association) suggests UK schools are increasing their spending on ICT. Since tablets are cheaper than other types of computers schools have bought in the past, the result of the increased spending may well be more computers per pupil. This MIGHT increase the use of computers in schools because they will be more available. On the other hand it may not, since so much technology in schools is underused.- paul paul Oct 28, 2013

  • The use of tablets in a classroom setting enables teachers to use a wider ranger of learning activitities, more routinely in the classroom. This will enhance the teaching pedagogy of the teacher. The potential of the tablet lies in the fact that it promotes independent learning and collaborative learning. The tablet can support the learning of the students in ways that is not possible without the tablet. It can transform teaching and learning practice. This has implications for training and development of the teacher. - Jeroen.Bottema Jeroen.Bottema Oct 30, 2013
  • I think the discussion has to be focused on what are we trying to achieve in this school, what are the types of learning environments we want to create and why? Then think about the devices that will enable this, rather than start with the device. - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Nov 3, 2013 agree - stefania.bocconi stefania.bocconi Nov 3, 2013

- Neil.Ingram Neil.Ingram Nov 3, 2013~Neil Ingram I see the potential to open up new kinds of group based and inquiry-led pedagogies, using the range of home/school/virtual environments available for synchronous and asynchronous work.


(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?




  • - Neil.Ingram Neil.Ingram Nov 3, 2013I am working with several schools that are implementing ipads with their classes. This is informing my work for the HP Catalyst Academy.
  • Tablets for Schools (T4S) is a UK not-for-profit campaign with support from headteachers, schools, leading academics, charities, industry and government. It aims to inspire schools showing the benefits of Tablets in education, sharing best practice and helping schools on their technological journey - See more at: http://www.tabletsforschools.co.uk/what-is-tablets-for-schools/#sthash.0K0bRxRf.dpuf - stefania.bocconi stefania.bocconi Nov 3, 2013

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