‘Fusion’ tablets equal smart future technology

| November 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Darrian Churchill

In an effort to keep ahead, administrators and Information Technology (IT) teachers must maintain a balance between effective learning and savvy spending on technology.

I believe it’s no longer wise to purchase fixed-function technology for use in the classroom or school environment. Ultra-portable devices like smartphones and tablets are changing the way we communicate – and thus the way we think and teach.

Learning about the limiting factors

I am the IT Manager at an independent school, and responsible for investigating new technologies to assist teachers and pupils alike in the learning process.

We have implemented a policy that encourages all our pupils to use personal laptops, and have researched a vast array, ranging from the lowly (and in my opinion, highly transient) netbooks, to high-end business laptops and the ever-present Apple Macbooks. As wonderful as this array is, there are limiting factors.

Smartphones and tablets are better buys

Laptops – even the small netbook variants – are cumbersome. One needs a bag, a power cable and a work surface. Tablets, on the other hand, are more portable, but doing any serious work on these devices – like typing an article such as this one – is almost impossible. What is required, and what I believe the industry will inevitably move towards, is a fusion of these mobile devices.

One company, Asus, has already released the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, a device based on a tablet running the Google Android operating system, but with the advantage of including an optional dockable keyboard. This transforms a limited-use tablet into a fully functional netbook. The technology available via these new devices – smartphone and tablet alike – far outpaces the hardware and software available in the Windows 95 era, all in a package that sits comfortably in the palm of one’s hand. Pupils will be able to join wireless networks on these devices to run a quick Google search and receive results within seconds, all from their desks. Notes can be taken on these devices in a format that can be opened on a computer running Microsoft Office.

These devices will also play High Definition YouTube videos in addition to normal web browsing. The possibilities for teachers are endless too, from simple things like using the tablet to take notes on class progress, to using the video output capabilities integrated into some of these devices to project information through a data projector in the classroom.

Looking into the future

Often, however, people who have not grasped their intended purpose expect too much from these new devices. They are currently not up to the task of heavy word processing or spreadsheet manipulation – work best left to desktop computer workstations and laptops. Today, they are primarily designed to provide mobile e-mail, web browsing and chat capabilities as standard, with many so-called ‘apps’ (applications) available freely, which expand their functionality.

The day will come – it will be sooner rather than later – when we will connect our smartphones to a docking station, which will supply a keyboard, mouse and screen. Desktop workstations won’t be required to present lessons on an interactive whiteboard or create work schemes and set examinations. ‘Fused’ devices will execute these functions without a problem. Whether in our personal lives or professional capacities, these devices are here to make a difference. They will ultimately renew, as well as expand, the availability of information at our fingertips. It is a bright future indeed.

Darrian Churchill is the IT Manager at Epworth Independent High School for Girls.

Category: e-Education, Uncategorized

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