Competition Finalist 5: Learning on Tablets

This post was submitted by Rosalie Ledda. Rosalie blogs about elearning in Spanish and can be found on LinkedIn.

Introduction

With the eruption of the iPad there is plenty of questions about its use. Do we have to replace textbooks in schools for tablets? Should companies think of adapting their content to be viewed on tablets?

Learning on Tablets according to the NMC Horizon Report

According to 2012 NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition tablets present new opportunities to enhance learning experiences when compared with other devices.
Tablets are considered less disruptive than smartphones because there are no ringing and no incoming messages that can distract the learners.
But what the report underlines is that the iPad has revolutionized the way in which people interact with the content. People now can swipe pages, pinch to zoom in or zoom out over the images, maps or even tap on the screen and run a video or a song. Suddenly, the content has become interactive, it has become engaging.

But what are the benefits of using tablets compared with textbooks?

The first that we can recall is the way the content is presented. The content in a tablet is usually more visual and more interactive, so more engaging.
The second advantage is the ease of updating the content comparing with textbooks. The following artcile: http://www.mobiledia.com/news/136174.html explains that the FCC spends about $7 billion per year on textbooks. However, many of them are seven to 10 years out of date.

Is the iPad really a temporary fashion?

Counting up until today, there is not a lot of evidence about the benefits of using tablets in educational contexts. However, there are schools and companies that have embraced the use of tablets in learning contexts and some have completely exchanged textbooks for tablets.

The article mentioned above explains that Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tested an interactive version of an algebra textbook for iPad in California’s Riverside Unified School District. The results showed that those who used the digital version scored 20 percent higher than those who learned with textbooks.
Another interesting experience is the one carried out by the Pennsylvania State University about the use of a tablet PC and the impact on learning in technology and engineering classrooms. http://pike.psu.edu/publications/wipte08.pdf
The research was grounded on Task Technology Fit (Goodhue and Thompson1995) and social learning theories. The research revealed some interesting conclusions. Some students said that the use of a tablet PC enhanced their learning experience. Students also pointed out that it was useful in tasks like sketching diagrams, graphs and maps. It also seems that what became important to the learning process and contributed to extent the use of the tool was the group.
But the most important conclusion was that the research suggested that the extent of use of the Tablet PC was due to two factors: task, technology fit and social influence.

Then, why do not we replace textbooks for tablets?

Despite the good results showed when using tablets for learning, it is not that easy. There are some issues to take into account.
It is necessary to invest in infrastructures, improve servers to guarantee the communications and train users.
Moreover, Kate Garland, a lecturer from Leicester University discovered that those students who used tablets to memorize new content needed more time than those who used traditional textbooks. http://www.mobiledia.com/news/133298.html
Another obstacle when learning with tablets is that content usually has links to click on so it easily changes the subject and can eventually lose it.

Conclusion

From my point of view and according to the different experiences that I have read I think that to exchange textbooks for tablets is not the best decision.
Learning on tablets is good to reinforce learning, to put in practice knowledge and practice skills. But when it comes to learning new content or memorizing concepts it is better to use textbooks for learning rather than tablets. Therefore I think it is better to think first what are the learning outcomes and define the best methodology and the resources to reach them out.