Education with Technology – Using Tablets as the Future of Classrooms

Today, technology is everywhere. From health care to aviation, technology is changing the way we interact, do business and most importantly, learn. The tablet offers immense potential, particularly in the field of education. In fact, the iPad – the most flourishing in the touchscreen market – is now being positioned as a “Learning Companion”, with the promise of changing the way things go around in the classrooms. A decade ago, nobody would have expected to see tablets being incorporated into one’s daily life (especially in the field of education); but now, it’s not only possible, but also a reality. Compared to this, innovative concepts of the past, like tele-education or virtual education, seem primitive. The question, however, is; how can tablet computers or touchscreens penetrate the education system of the developing world, if the cost of an iPad is (in some places) equal to the annual salary of a teacher?    

Tablets 101

Before we even get close to answering this question, it is important to understand what tablets are and how they work. The PC Magazine defines a tablet as “a general purpose computer contained in a single panel. Its distinguishing characteristic is the use of a touchscreen as the input device”. With the advent of the iPhone and iPad, we have witnessed the birth of apps (applications) that add value and functionality to a device. Developers across the globe are now working on developing apps for smatphones and tablets. For people who are unfamiliar with the nature of apps, they are available in different categories, including education, news, entertainment, social networking etc. Just in the education category there are thousands of apps available.

The bright side of the divide

Recently, Apple launched iBooks textbooks for students, transforming paper textbooks into multi-touch textbooks with 3D content and interactive images. Is Apple pioneering a revolution in the field of education? The answer to that is yes. No more will students have to be weighed down by heavy backpacks and learn from textbooks containing obsolete knowledge. We live in a world which is constantly churning out information. Traditional textbooks do not contain updated information on relevant subjects. Most importantly, it is the method of learning and teaching that has undergone such a radical change. Such technologies enable students to learn in the digital age, using digital tools. And the technology that they have access to, is not absolute. It is dynamic and diverse. This innovation leads to whole new education system that focuses on new technologies like tablets, and that encourages app developers to build more productive and functional apps in the field of education. This is the only way new methods of teaching will emerge.

Concepts such as e-learning, distance education, and virtual learning have been around for a while – all with the promise of leveraging digital technology to deliver education to classrooms in the developing world. Projects that focus on these themes have had little impact, with very few plans translating into sustainable and scalable initiatives – such that could be replicated across different countries in the developing world. A number of factors have contributed to this; the high cost of technology equipment, the lack of state support, the lack of qualified teachers etc.

Light at the end

For innovation to have an impact it is important that it should be home-grown and localized. An environment that is conducive needs to be created and nurtured, with support and collaboration from governments, the information technology industry and the education sector. If we want tablets to revolutionize and transform education, it is important to realize that tablets are just part of a bigger plan. Rolling out low-cost tablets is not enough to guarantee that the objectives are met. It is often said that it’s not the technology itself, but the use of it that is important. Similarly, it’s not the tablets that are important; it’s how they will be used in the classrooms by teachers and students that are.

Advantages of tablets in transforming education

  1. Tablets can benefit both primary and secondary graders. In the case of primary students, teachers can engage them in their lessons by using playful educational apps on tablets.
  2. Instead of the conventional blackboard, they can use the tablets to explain basic concepts, making the learning process playful and interesting. There are a plethora of engaging educational apps based on cartoon characters available on different platforms.
  3. Interactive story-telling is another activity that can encourage primary graders to read and better express themselves with words and visuals. At the secondary and tertiary levels, students can use tablets in place of their textbooks.
  4. The level of interactivity and portability that technologies like tablets allow (by becoming digital textbooks) could be pivotal for effective understanding of important concepts.

The success of tablets has already proven they are useful gadgets. But will tablets succeed in fulfilling the dream team of easy-access and affordable education for millions of children from Africa to India? We will just have to wait and see.
Author Bio:- Sohail Qaisar writes informative articles for a technology review blog, checkout his useful article on nvidia or ati card selection.

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