Interest is very strong right now with using the current array of tablet computers in the classroom – both with the use of Apple’s iPad and, to a lesser degree, Android-based tablets.  Many educators say they are finding success with these devices in the classroom, and we decided that it’s time to find out for ourselves.

About mid-February, using funds from a grant from the Seven Trees Foundation, two Apple iPads and two Samsung Galaxy Tab computers were placed in the hands of our third and fourth grade teachers, Mrs. Quigley, Mr. Leary, Mrs. Sherman and Mrs. Bender. The only instructions were to use them as they wished, and to pass along these instructions (and encouragements) to their students.  We also provided a list of “functions” that we expected they could do or try with these devices, hoping that they would find these functions useful, and would then report back how well they performed.

During this evaluation time, the Tech team visited with the teachers on several occasions to answer questions, and provide tips and help as needed. At the end of the “pilot” period, the teachers participated in a feedback session to share their thoughts with the technology department and the lower school division head.

As expected, the tablet devices had all the attributes we  had heard about – that also make them easy-to-use in a lower school classroom setting: light-weight, intuitive, long battery life – and they were fun and entertaining. They made good research tools, were good for reading e-books and were good for playing educational games. The Samsung had some minor advantages over the iPad, and the iPad had some minor advantages over the Samsung. Deficiencies were also noted – including the lack of anything that was acceptable as a substitute for MS Office, problems saving files and knowing where they were located at a later time, difficulty in collaboration, and problems printing.

Overall, the iPads and Galaxy tablets are fun and useful machines, but they are not regarded as useful enough for third and fourth grades to replace the need for more traditional laptop, netbook, and desktop computers.  Having said that – we’ll keep our eyes and ears open, and look forward to running more tests and trials in the coming 20012-13 academic year to see how the technology – and our opinion on them – has changed.