Studying at University has, for a very long time now, involved the use of new technologies to enhance the learning experience, provided new means of research, and provided tools to make Higher Education a more enjoyable experience, without sacrificing quality. Tablets are the latest innovation to enter the classroom, and many students are actively beginning to incorporate them into their studies. But before buying a shiny new gadget, what do you need to know?
Tablet computers are quickly taking over conventional computers, with around 50% of all computer sales in 2014 expected to be made up of the devices. Whereas laptops were once the king of the lecture hall, tablets from companies such as Apple and Samsung are rapidly replacing them. They are lighter, more transportable and allow you to access the resources that the University provides through the X-Stream portal, such as PDFs of worksheets or information, or lecture slides, providing you with more information than just the classes themselves. You can also get apps to highlight and annotate as you go along, allowing a more rounded view right in the lecture.
Tablets, such as the iPad or Nexus 7 are certainly better for you than carrying round a heavy laptop. But, like all good hardware, they need software to maximise their usefulness. In terms of numbers alone, the iPad seems like the obvious choice, with over 1 Million apps to choose from in the Apple App Store, more than what is offered in the Google Play and Windows Stores combined. However, in the classroom, there are many cross platform tools you can use, such as the range of services that Google offers, like Google Drive and Google Docs. As an online service, Google tools are accessible from almost any device, and in many cases, especially on things like the iPad, for which the site and apps have been specially optimised for. Other services, such as Box and Dropbox for storage, or Quip for collaborative writing. The plethora of cross-platform services does mean, however, that you can leave which tablet you choose down to personal choice.
However, there are some downsides to having a internet connected device with you during class time. Using Social Networks in class, such as Facebook or Twitter, are not a good idea. However, some lecturers have taken advantage of these new systems, with one including a Twitter feed on the wall during lectures, allowing students to interact and contribute via the network. Other things, such as games and entertainment apps, offer little to no benefit in class, and should be avoided at all costs, lest you miss something vital!
As with all things, cost is another issue. Of course, some students have the luck of getting a tablet provided to them by parents, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Whilst a brand new, shiny iPad may be tempting, consider that there are many decent Android tablets that run just as well, for half the cost if you are on a tight budget. The University also ran a pilot last year, in which a course was supplied with 75 devices, to see if it improved the learning experience, which was met very positively, which means there may be more pilots to come. So whether you’re a hardcore apple fan or dedicated Android user, you would probably find more than a few benefits to bringing a tablet device to class. If you get a tablet over Christmas, why not consider kitting it out with a few academic tools?