One Child, One Tablet

Birgit Nazarian, Writer, specializing in IT and HR | 1/4/2012 | 18 comments

Birgit Nazarian
One piece of hardware might be the thing that most impacts the education system if we can get it into the hands of every child --the tablet PC. It’s one of the most popular tech tools requested by teachers for many good reasons. Tablets are becoming important tools in classrooms all over the globe.

But our system for financing education creates barriers and inequities in this country. The quality of a student’s education now depends largely on where the student lives. Districts first need the support and funds for the wireless infrastructure, repairs, and other costs in their budgets. But if we can address that hurdle, tablets could help level the playing field.

Consider textbooks. According to North Carolina's 2010-2011 budget, the cost of a single textbook in the K-12 subjects was between $44 and $68, and textbooks need to be replaced frequently as curriculum changes are made. With that in mind, school districts could see a cost return on investment in tablets as prices come down and textbooks are downloaded in cheaper e-formats.

Another advantage of these devices is how natural they seem to students. The interactive nature of learning on a tablet comes naturally to a lot of youngsters today, because they've grown up with electronic devices as part of their everyday world. Consider the ease of using a touch screen for younger children, along with tablet writing programs for older kids. In special education, children with autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities, as well as kids who learn best with visual images, would benefit from this different approach to learning.

While we wait for tablet prices to come down, developers are already thinking about devices better suited for educational use. The chip maker Marvell has formed partnerships with organizations such as One Laptop per Child with a goal of distributing low-cost Mobylize tablets. These tablets are designed to be rugged and streamlined for children so they can be used in an educational environment.

The tablet's design advantages over laptop and desktop PCs are indisputable. I admit I wasn’t a big fan until I began to think of the potential classroom uses. The lightness, portability, screen orientation flexibility, instant on/off, and ease of changing applications help teachers proceed faster to other lessons without delays and additional instruction. It might be a less-than-ideal time right now to launch a One Child, One Tablet revolution across the nation. But down the road, investing in tablets for every child, in every classroom, will only become easier to justify. Of course, there is no substitute for good teachers and a sound curriculum, but the tablet will get a gold star very soon for being every classroom’s most valuable educational tool.

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freespiritny25   One Child, One Tablet   1/19/2012 7:36:25 AM
One Child, One Tablet
I embrace technology in the classroom and at home. I purchased the LeapPad tablets for my children. I feel it will prepare them for the "real world" and will teach them responsibility too. Of course they are ready for an iPad now- LOL. Educational tablets in the classroom would be a useful resource and an excellent tool for learning.
DBK   One Child, One Tablet   1/10/2012 7:57:17 PM
Re: One Child, One Tablet or is it google Chrome?
This is a difficult discussion and definitely demonstrates the ramifications of the great digital divide.  Affluence does provide a great educational opportunity as long as the child embraces it.  Some take it for granted and don't apply themselves but that is a different format.  Recently with my kids high school CIO I had the opportunity to discuss the schools technology objectives.  It was a well thought out plan and shortly there after I was in the audience for the following informational dialog on the same topic.  A good listen and view for those who are interested.  The other components about this is how to connect, do you go wireless network or step toward a distributed Antenna System (DAS) and tie into a wireless carrier to get G4?  And let's face it that is what is coming in the near future. a link to a google chrome webinar.
David Wagner   One Child, One Tablet   1/5/2012 3:12:39 PM
Re: One Child, One Tablet
Haha! Fair enough. We've had over a decade of lap tops and no one has really been biting. If it takes a sexy tablet to get people interested, i guess i'm all for it.
glenbren   One Child, One Tablet   1/5/2012 3:08:54 PM
Re: One Child, One Tablet
Well, I didn't say I was holding my breath, lol! A person can dream...

Laptops are great and may be ready to go, but they're not going to make it into most schools anytime soon either :(
David Wagner   One Child, One Tablet   1/5/2012 2:52:22 PM
Re: One Child, One Tablet
I'm not trying to be a killjoy, glenbren. I bought my daughter a tablet because i thought it would be great for her so I'm obviously not anti-tablet or anti-electronic education. But i guess i'm having trouble visualizing a "tablet designed specifically for education."

We've previously discussed schools that deployed tablets that had software designed to prevent them from being used as game machines and the students hacked them in no time. If there is some overlay to prevent game play, i suspect that will always be the case unless it is really expensive. And if you did with the OS instead (say an education specific OS that didn't run Angry Birds) it couldn't run current apps. You'd have to have developer support.

I was at a restaurant last night and they were using iPads for the wine list. The waitress joked to me that if i could tell her how to get Angry Birds on it she'd love to know. I took it as a challenge. It turned out it was a two minute process to get to where i needed to go to do it. Kids are smarter than me AND more determined.

Anyway, I love the idea. But i don't see how it would work and we have this lovely piece of technology, the laptop, that approximates 90% of what we like in the tablet ready to go.
glenbren   One Child, One Tablet   1/5/2012 10:03:10 AM
Re: One Child, One Tablet
Tablets designed specifically for education would be great. I agree they shouldn't have games or social networking programs, but restricted internet access, with educational networking, including video conferencing, that would enable students to communicate with and access resources from other schools and students anywhere in the world. That would even the playing field a little and provide more opportunities, especially for schools in remote areas and/or those with little funding.
bnazarian   One Child, One Tablet   1/5/2012 8:43:39 AM
Re: One Child, One Tablet
@Henrisha, I think the tablets being designed specifically for K-12 is really important, a couple of models like Mobylize has done. One for younger kids and one for kids who are older. I would like to see internet access on them of course. I remember as a kid having those Encyclopedia Brittantica follks coming to the door peddling sets of encyclopedias to parents with a message like: "Don't you want your kids to have the tools they need to succeed?" That's how I see the Internet--only better and if kids can take that home from school and just explore the world of information available to them, heck, they can practically teach themselves Chinese online. 

Just recently I pulled up videos on YouTube of Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and some of my favorite classical masterpieces to expose my son to classical music. Just because it was Youtube he was willing to give the idea a shot and humor me. Once he was seated in front of the screen listening he was open to seeing more of my suggestions and replaying some. 
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Henrisha   One Child, One Tablet   1/5/2012 5:03:46 AM
Re: One Child, One Tablet
As with everything, there are pros and cons. Pros: Lighter backpacks (as someone else commented), you can just update the content (think of all the paper saved!), and they're generally more convenient when it comes to portability. Cons: Maintenance (what if the child breaks it?). Most of these, you've mentioned already.

I think what could be a huge advantage is if a manufacturer would design and make a tablet geared specifically for educational purposes. No gaming apps or social networking programs (all of which are just huge distractions), but just plain educational stuff, like the textbooks, notepad apps, and maybe even a calculator.

I'd really love to see this happen someday all across the country.
Henrisha   One Child, One Tablet   1/5/2012 5:00:08 AM
Re: Mentally smart but socially impaired
I'm with you on this. In some areas that barely have enough textbooks for the entire class, I think One Tablet, One Child is still a long way off. But yes, there are a lot of advantages if we were to have textbooks replaced with tablets. The thing is, the investment is going to be huge--and school systems (and budgets) will have to prepare for it.
Gigi   One Child, One Tablet   1/5/2012 1:10:41 AM
Re: One Netbook, One Child
"The quality of a student's education now depends largely on where the student lives"

Birgit, you are right. The quality of education varies from place to place or institutions to institutions across the globe. Even though everybody is using the same technology and following the same syllabus. In cities and metros it seems they have a better quality education, when compare with the remote area. In education quality matters lot.
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