To the tongue-in-cheek question “what would Moses do?”, one could suppose stone would be out in favor of a modern highly-connected tablet device. I said in a prior blog that mobile devices are (should be) the future of technology in the K-12 classroom and that tablet devices are probably the ideal for most teaching and learning situations. So which tablet?
There basically three choices; 1. iOS tablets from Apple, 2. Android tablets from a variety of vendors, and 3. Windows 8 tablets which should arrive in 2012.
The Apple iPad is the device that really sealed the fate of the traditional PC in the classroom. It’s powerful, connected, and nearly ideal as a teaching and learning device. Some object to the end-to-end Apple environment – but it actually works to our advantage in education. Apple tightly controls all apps that become available in the app store – so distasteful and inappropriate apps are not a problem. Apple also makes the “iPhone Utility” available as a way to further secure iPads for classroom use. At $500 to start ($400 for an iPad 2), the iPad is a bit pricey for some situations.
There are now many models of Android based tablets available and many more in the pipeline. Competition in this space has resulted in rapidly declining prices. A nice nine or ten inch Android based tablet can be had for around $350 and a seven inch tablet for about $200. Android provides an excellent graphical environment that is simple to learn and use. It is a much more “open” environment in which anyone can write and supply apps. This seeming advantage could be just the opposite in the K-12 world. Today, we spend a fortune in technical and human resources fighting spyware and virus infections in PCs because they are “open”. Will we now extend this to the tablets we put in the hands of students? Worth pondering! The world of Android has also suffered complications from vendor specific versions and a lack of upgradability.
Finally, there is Windows 8. As if we needed more evidence that Microsoft has lost it’s innovation edge, they are very, very late to the tablet dance. We will see our first Windows 8 tablets sometime in 2012 and when released, apps will be the chief issue for anyone purchasing one. MS has already announced that PC Windows apps will not run on Windows 8 tablets. So MS will be depending on developers to create a whole new generation of apps for this new environment. Only time will tell if MS can become a player in the tablet space.
If Moses had to make a decision on a new tablet today, I think he might proceed as follows: If paying $500 (or $400 for the 2) and the unique Apple environment were not a problem, an iPad would be an excellent choice. If initial price were a significant issue, he might pick an Android tablet. He might, however, be surprised by TCO – the additional ongoing costs of supporting an “open” device.