09 October 2011

Take Two and Call Me in the Morning

Last week, I started using my first tablet device (computer?). It's for work, as with the infusion of these items into classrooms, it's difficult to provide any support or advice without knowing what they are able to do. I'm not an Apple fan. I don't have an iTunes account. I don't use their hardware. So, I'm sporting an Asus Transformer, which has a Droid (Google) OS.

I am looking to interact with this tablet from a couple of perspectives. One is simply from an educator level. If I were a teacher, for example, how might I use this for my own productivity? So, I'm hunting for apps for managing lessons and projects, record-keeping, content, and interactivity with other people and devices. But along the way, I have to learn how to personally deal with this...thing. Do I like to try and touchtype...or is the "hunt and peck" method better? I do have access to an external keyboard/docking station, and a stylus. When are these the best options for input or use? And then there is app management---what items to place where, as well as basic set up. How do I decide if an app is "good"? What role might these play in my work with students?

The other viewpoint I'm trying to take is at a student level. Sure, there's an advantage of having a tablet deliver classroom content over a backpack full of books, but that's only a small part of learning. You also need to able to manipulate information (e.g. take notes on what you read, organize information for papers/presentations) and share it (e.g. upload to wikis or other learning spaces). At this point, I don't really care about the content-related apps. I know they're there, but right now, I want to focus on the output. Can I edit a wiki and add hyperlinks? Can I edit a video clip or create a music track? Draw something and then share it on Flickr or Tumblr or Moodle?

The answer to all of these so far is "Sorta." This echoes what I've seen and heard from people with iPads. The Apple market is much farther along in terms of app development, but considering the Droid platform far outstrips iOS in the phone market, it won't be long until open source apps catch up (and go further). There are beautiful apps for getting information into your head...but the ones for harnessing the real power of the web just aren't quite there yet. At this point, I really hope that schools are proceeding with caution about getting tablets into the hands of students. If your primary reason is to provide access to digital content, you have spent a ton of money on nothing that will actually change instruction. Is that really what the goal should be?

I have a netbook. The battery life has never been great...and the processor struggles with large files. It runs on Windows XP, a soon-to-be no longer supported system. However, it is smaller and lighter than a tablet...runs regular software (not apps)...and has a small, but very functional, keyboard and touchpad. I have loved this little machine a lot. But, it's 2.5 years old and is starting to show its age. I'm going to have to replace it at some point and it will be interesting to see if I make the choice to go tablet. I like the idea of a handheld...but I don't like the idea of not being able to easily access, edit, and use the files that I need most. I understand that different tools can have different purposes, but how many things am I supposed to carry---a phone...a tablet...and a netbook/laptop? I will be watching the tablet evolution very closely. I am hoping that the devices become lighter and the apps more powerful.

Are you using a tablet, either for personal or professional reasons? What's been your experience? What would you recommend?


Tatnall Physics said...

If you're looking for a computer, I'd go with the Lenovo x220. Since you mentioned productivity, you really want a computer, not an iPad-style tablet. I'm really angry at them for coopting the term; actual tablet computers have been around for a while - I've had 3 - and all do so much more than these media toys.

The Science Goddess said...

I really do like that style of computer (the tablet type). I haven't used one myself, but have seen them in action in various classrooms and presentations. A lot of flexibility with those tools.

Anonymous said...

I second Tatnall's comment. I used a tablet computer for the latter part of last year and really liked it. I can't say that I was particularly innovative with it, but it allowed me to document my board work, which I was previously unable to do. This year I use my smartboard to do that.

I don't think I would/could make do with just a tablet device instead of a computer for what I do. At least not in their current form.