By Ernst Wittmann, Country Manager for Southern Africa at Alcatel Onetouch
When you see how comfortable four-year olds are with touchscreen devices, it’s easy to appreciate how quickly mobile phones and tablet computers are changing the world. Over the past few years, we have seen tablet computers evolve from toys for geeks and execs into affordable everyday computers.
Now, they’re increasingly forming part of the educational landscape. They’re cost-effective (especially entry-level Android-based models), offer decent battery life, and functional and flexible enough to help learners get their work done. Here are some of the key benefits we see from tablets in the classroom:
1. Simpler IT support
The beauty of tablet computers lies in their simplicity. They are easy to use because of their intuitive touchscreen interfaces and pose a lower barrier of entry for students who are not yet familiar with computers.
Because they have fewer components than a traditional PC, they tend to be more reliable from a hardware perspective.
Provided their owners don’t "jailbreak" them to install pirated apps and other unauthorised software, tablet computers are more resistant to malware.
And since their operating systems are slimmer, lighter and less customisable, there are fewer ways for a learner to accidentally make a configuration change that renders his or her device unusable. This all translates into a lower overhead for IT support.
2. Mobile lifestyle
Today’s school children and youth are a mobile generation. Even kids from poorer homes are usually familiar with cell phones and feature phones. Tablets are a perfect fit for their lifestyle since they are personal, light, portable, and offer good battery life on a single charge.
Learners don’t need access to a computer lab to do their work because they always have their tablet computers with them. If a child is sick at home, for example, he or she may still able to do some of the day’s work from the tablet computer. As long as they have an Internet connection, children can keep learning.
3. There’s an app for that
There are millions of apps available for the most popular tablet operating systems, including a rich selection of educational apps. From maths to physics, from English to biology, schoolchildren have a wide range of content at their fingertips.
4. Personalised and interactive learning
Tablets offer schoolchildren a range of learning tools in one place and help them to engage deeply with educational content. They can record the classroom session for later review, use calculators and other tools, and do so much more on one interface. They may no longer need to, for example, buy a separate scientific calculator, take a separate camera on field trips, or carry a lot of textbooks around.
Tablets can also make educational content come to life with video, audio and gamification. Rather than simply seeing a picture of Nelson Mandela in a textbook, they can view video footage of the day he was released from prison. If they’re reading a book, they can look up a word they don’t know from a dictionary integrated into the e-reader app. This up to a richer learning experience.