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Tablets: Study Tool or Digital Distraction?

Posted by Dean Asher on Apr 7, 2015 12:00:00 AM
Topics: K-12, studying, retail technology, digital content

While print continues to be the most popular medium among students, digital materials are continuing to make inroads in US and international education. eBooks often carry cheaper sticker prices than print books and we’ve already shared with you a number of sites and apps that can make studying in the digital age easier, but do the games and distractions tablets place in students’ hands outweigh the benefits?

As with anything, there are pros and cons to using tablets as a studying and educational tool.

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First, the downside.

While it’s true that the digital titles your students can buy to use with their tablets are cheaper than print textbooks, the devices they’d use to read them can cost several hundred dollars. While this may be a sound investment if your program will provide the devices to students, (and if students will continue to use them throughout their academic careers,) this can be cost prohibitive for students who must buy their own.

Though competition with other tablet and smartphone designs is driving tablet costs down, only about one in every four American households owns a tablet, only half of Americans own a tablet. That number is increasing, but it can still be a challenge for implementing tablet usage today.

And with access to games, music and other sites on the same device as eBooks and study guides, many students are finding it harder to focus solely on their studies with tablets. Four-fifths of students aged 8-18 multitask when using media.

Now for the pros.

They really can make learning more intuitive

One Laptop Per Child is an organization that seeks to improve students’ access to and proficiency with educational technology. In 2012, they conducted an experiment where they gave tablets with pre-installed educational programs to students in remote Ethiopian villages and observed the results.

Astonishingly, the children — all of whom were illiterate and had no previous exposure to written language — were able to learn to sing the alphabet song and spell a number of words after a few months, with no other instruction. Used with the right software, tablets can definitely have a positive impact on a students’ learning and engagement.

Tablets have been known to improve standardized test scores

Textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tested an interactive, digital version of one of its Algebra 1 textbooks for the iPad against one of its print versions in a California school district. The result: students who used the digital version scored 20 percent higher on standardized tests than those who used traditional books.

Teachers agree tablets enrich the classroom

In a 2012 PBS LearningMedia survey, 81 percent of teachers who responded across all grade levels said tablets “enrich classroom education.” enrich classroom education. They allowed a more one-on-one engagement with the websites, online images and activities teachers in digitally integrated classrooms like to implement, and can increase student motivation and reinforce or expand upon the content teachers are presenting to their students.

The Conclusion

While there are factors like cost and comfort to consider, tablets can definitely make great study companions for many students. While few students may currently have access to the technology to make it obligatory, encouraging tablet use in the classroom can have tremendous benefit for students and teachers alike!

About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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