The Tug of the Tablet

Now's the time to prep your applications and network for the flood of new devices available to mobile users.

Now's the time to prep your applications and network for the flood of new devices available to mobile users.

Tracey Kracht of Liberty (Mo.) Public Schools is keeping a watchful eye on the spate of new tablet computer models hitting the market.

As she sees it, the portable computing devices could be an enormous benefit to the 17-school system's 11,100 K-12 students: "They could help teachers easily move around the classroom, lighten the load in student backpacks and help principals improve walk-through evaluations," she says.

Liberty hasn't yet deployed tablets because Kracht, an instructional technology coach in the district's two high schools, is waiting to see which products gain traction in the education market. But she's excited about the array of options, including HP's Slate and Samsung's Galaxy Tab.

The district is in a solid position to adopt tablets because some administrators and faculty already have tablet computers and know how to use the touch-screen technology. Kracht believes newer tablet models will take hold when textbook companies begin offering digital versions as alternatives to the heavy volumes kids carry now. "It would improve learning if kids could interact with the text, mark it up and write in the margins," she says. Instant Internet connectivity also would be useful, she adds.

Craig Mathias, a principal with wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group, recommends that IT leaders carefully examine the purpose of a tablet deployment and weigh attributes such as ease of use and management. For instance, if a school has a strong Cisco video conferencing infrastructure and intends to use tablets as an extension of this, then Cisco's newly announced Cius tablet might be the best bet. Or if a district's administrators are familiar with RIM's BlackBerry offerings, then the company's BlackBerry PlayBook might appeal to them.

"There's going to be a tablet option for everyone, but you have to map them to your applications and other requirements," Mathias says.

Mathias also recommends considering battery life, ruggedness and connectivity options such as Wi-Fi and cellular. Districts that use web-based applications and have campuses blanketed with Wi-Fi will enjoy more choices, higher cost effectiveness, and easier adoption of tablet technologies.

Liberty Public Schools' Kracht agrees, noting that teachers are excited to use tablets instead of notebooks so they can wirelessly tether to their overhead projectors and roam throughout the class, calling up examples on the web and circling important concepts.

Here is a sampling of tablets available now or coming soon.

Asus Eee Pad Slider
OS: Android
Display: 10.1"
Camera: 1.2 megapixel (forward-facing), 5MP (rear-facing)
Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

 
 

HP Slate 500 Tablet PC
OS: Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
Display: 8.9"
Camera: VGA webcam (forward), 3MP camera (rear)
Connections: Wi-Fi

 


Cisco Cius

OS: Android
Display: 7"
Camera: 720p 30 frames-per-second high-definition video encoding and decoding (forward), 5MP still pictures or VGA-quality video (rear)
Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

 

Motorola Xoom
OS: Android
Display: 10.1"
Camera: 2MP webcam (forward), 5MP camera (rear)
Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

 
 
 
 

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
OS: BlackBerry Tablet OS
Display: 7"
Camera: 3MP HD (forward), 5MP HD (rear)
Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

 
 
 

Samsung Galaxy Tab
OS: Android
Display: 7"
Camera: 1.3MP (forward), 3MP auto-focus (rear)
Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

Apr 15 2011

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