T he January 1982 issue of Class- room Computer News had an article titled “Schooldays 1991:
Vision of Student Life in the Next
Decade.” In it, Ricky Carter wrote
about children in the distant 1990s,
“carrying a dynabook: a book-sized
electronic device with a display screen
and a small touch-sensitive typewriter
keyboard.” Students could edit and
illustrate a story; use a spellchecker;
compose music; participate in tele-conferences; receive alerts about
their schedules; and communicate
with teachers, other students, and a
national network. Thirty years later,
these prophecies have come true in
the form of tablet computers, along
with many functions that would have
boggled our minds back in the 1980s.
Today there is a growing number of
apps that are ideal for the classroom.
For no cost, you can have instant access to History: Maps of the World,
Shakespeare: The Complete Works,
every conceivable reference book, and
more than 25,000 free classic books.
The reading experience is enhanced
with images, audio, and video. Students can write in “the margins” and
use an integrated dictionary.
Organizational tools, such as
Evernote, store notes, images, and
websites. Tegrity, a lecture capturing
tool, lets you bookmark important
segments of a talk. These, like other
cloud-based apps, store information at
a secure location, and can be accessed
by computer, phone, or tablet.
Almost half of all educational apps
are free, and the majority of other
apps are less than five dollars. Some
companies offer a free version as well
as a premium edition that may have
more functions or no advertising.
Exciting possibilities come with advances in hardware. Several manufac-
turers include features missing from
the iPad, such as SD card readers and
a USB port, though there are now iPad
accessories to address these needs.
Most tablets have accelerometers,
which detect the tilting of the device
in three dimensions. Combined with
a built-in GPS and maps, the feedback
that tablets provide makes navigating
the world an interactive delight.
Because of their portability and
lower cost, students are more likely
to read digital textbooks on tablets
than desktop computers. Tablets incorporate e-reader software but have
many other functions. The Kindle Fire
and the Barnes & Noble nook tablet
are examples of e-readers that have
evolved into tablet-like devices with
email, internet browsing, and a growing number of available apps.
All of the models included here
have touchscreens and Wi-Fi capability. Other than the Fire and the nook,
these units have an option for cellular
connectivity that requires a short- or
long-term contract for coverage.
Most devices have adapters for projectors that turn a tablet into a classroom presentation device. For those of
us who prefer a traditional keyboard,
there are wireless Bluetooth options,
including a fold-up, soft rubber keyboard that is resistant to liquids.
Carter’s prediction was spot on,
but even he did not anticipate that
you would be able to download an
app such as Star Walk that would enable you to stand under a starry sky;
point your tablet to the heavens; and
identify the stars, constellations, and
satellites. Move over, Sir Isaac Newton. Our students will soon be writing
apps that will do even more.
—Maureen Yoder, EdD, is on the faculty
of Lesley University’s Technology in
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