Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Laptops Versus Netbooks Versus Tablets in Schools

As an mobile tech enthusiast and avid iPad user, you can forgive me for believing tablets have a great future in education. For anyone else, I have to remember that not everyone has embraced tablets like I have and that laptops in general are what students turn to write their papers, conduct research, or get online.

But the time will come, probably as early as this year, when educators and students will be at the crossroad where they’d have to choose their mobile weapon of choice: laptops, netbooks, or tablets?

For my four-year old nephew, he’s already familiar with his ways around the iPad. I will likely convince his parents to get the iMac when the time comes but I am likely and generously going to get him his own tablet when the time comes. It maybe an iPad or not depending on what’s the best choice at the time.

However, not everyone will have such a nice uncle.

Enterpise is already deploying and testing iPads for what I think are specific uses. For schools, the needs are very different.

Usability and familiarity with tomorrow’s technology is very important as are prices. And cash-strapped schools may turn to netbooks or cheap laptops instead of the more expensive but advanced iPads that are reshaping society and mobile behaviors. Still, money cannot be the only defining factor.

Schools are supposed to prepare our students for tomorrow’s work environment. And if familiarity with tablet operations is key, if not the schools, the students have an obligation to their own future when it comes to technology.

One solution I have that might solve this is for schools to provide students with vouchers and give them a wider spectrum of mobile choices so it won’t be latops or tablets. It’ll be up to the student to decide which device the will likely get to most out of.

From OLPCs (XO) to netbooks to laptops to iPads, this will provide educators and students a richer environment.

Whatever the solution, educators and parents have to be very involved, do their homework regarding what is best for their students. Not everyone is the same. However, choices between various mobile gears are going to be very important for our students.

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