Tablet 2.0: An Open Market for Education

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The upcoming tablet devices from Steve Jobs and Michael Arrington’s crews have the potential to greatly impact how people interact with digital media and the Internet.  Aside from being easy-to-use Internet companions and multimedia centers, these two devices could reshape the way teachers teach and students learn.  Much different than what we traditionally think of as Windows-based Tablet PCs, this new generation of tablets, Tablet 2.0, appear to be focusing on entertainment and convenience.

The Need for Tablet 2.0 in Education
There is a great need in America’s K-12 public education system to embrace emerging and popular technologies as a way to enhance lessons and improve educational achievement.  Largely due to a lack of funding, concerns over control, and untrained faculty members, schools have been resistant to implement mobile labs in classrooms (or allow students access through their personal devices).  Notebooks rather than netbooks continue to reign supreme in the labs that do exist.  Devices like netbooks are cool but they are not innovative; there is nothing new in the design or use of a netbook compared to a laptop.  However, the popularity of ebook readers and the surge of all things multi-touch have opened the door to a new breed of Internet devices.

In this day and age, it is difficult for average teachers to compete with video games, text messaging, movies, and the Internet.  An easy to use tablet device could help teachers capitalize on these technologies, using them to help students learn.  Schools could benefit from tablets as it would remove the dependency on textbooks which contain information and history written by companies.  Instead, students could discover their own information and view many different perspectives, creating their own understanding of history.

What it Would Take for Tablet Success in Education
There are many debates about what the upcoming iPad and CunchPad must do in order to be successful.  Many are questioning whether consumers can be shown a need or the devices themselves can be exceptional enough that people will fork over the money to buy them.  These new tablet devices have the potential to be what Mobile Internet Devices (MIDS) intended to be and what Tablet PCs failed to be.  Aside from the obvious form-factor, battery life, and hardware requirements, software will be key in whether these devices take off.

With regards to a school environment, the software must be easy to use, simple, and attractive.  Students and teachers should be able to navigate, understand, and access features with no previous working knowledge or experience of this  tablet platform.  The operating system should be visually pleasing and draw users in, encouraging them to interact with the device.  An on-screen, functional keyboard is a must.  Natural input or inking is also a must regardless of whether it is the primary method of input.  If packaged in affordable deals, these tablets could benefit students of all ages.

Why Would iPad and CrunchPad Want to Get their Feet in Education’s Door?
Getting these tablets into the school setting would raise up lifelong consumers if these products are all-around solid and well designed.  These devices will create the standard that future tablets will follow.  The formula used to determine if these devices will succeed or fail is simple.  A tablet such as the iPad or CrunchPad will succeed if it appeals to teenagers, is strong enough to withstand a classroom environment, and is easy as a microwave to use.  I am certain that we will one day see these devices in backpacks rather than books, pencils, and paper.

What do you foresee as roadblocks preventing this platform from succeeding?