Why tablets will make us smarter

The history of mankind has shown that information is the fundamental leverage factor for our mental development. The most profound moments throughout time have to do with changes in the way information was communicated, stored, processed. After inventing language and writing, the most important development was the modern communication networks. And now, the tablet.

What makes tablets so powerful is their inherent interactivity and intuitiveness. The Economist had a great article about Grace Wambui, a 14-year-old pupil in Nairobi, who was given a tablet at school. Having never touched a tablet before, she figured out how to use it within a minute or so. And she is old. My own niece, 18 months old, figured out how to see videos and photos on my tablet, after playing her favorite games. She learned how to play the infamous birds game and her favorite memory-cards game, while she could barely speak. Now, that’s a breakthrough.

If we, as infants, develop through interaction, then tablets are our mental steroids. The App Store and Google Play have tons of tablet apps for infants, teaching them vocabulary, numbers, even basic arithmetics, while having lots of fun along the way. We are talking about kids that can’t even properly target a mouse cursor, yet they can navigate and use a tablet to get the entertainment they want and the education they need.

This trend carries on to adulthood. The tablet is where we actually seek information, we do the heavy reading, where we watch video and photos. We allow ourselves to a more relaxed experience and more efficient way when it comes to absorbing information. People at their homes have changed their attitude; from a “lean-back” (TV), to a “lean-in” (PC), back to a “lean-back” (tablet). Access to information is now easier than ever and the learning environment of the learner is now more relaxed, supporting the learning process.

Ok, we have smartphones; but smartphones are mostly about communication. Mobile Learning is different, in that the tablet is not as personal as a smartphone, nor do we carry it around all the time. Tablets are heavier and have larger screens, so you cannot hold them for a long time, but you can use them for long sessions without eye strain. Exactly what a learner needs.

And do not forget about the thing that “makes the world go round”; the tablet is cheaper. Schools, governments and all sorts of organizations always look at the financial side of things. Austerity and budget cuts push everyone to low-cost tools, preferably “mobile” (as in “easily transferred”) and do not require other facilities, like a computer lab, power or tech support. Emirates Airlines is using tablets coupled with custom developed applications as performance support tools for crew-members. Western countries, but also developing countries, are subsidizing tablets for schools and government organizations. Brazil has announced plans to hand out 600,000 tablets out to its public schools. The US FCC forecasts $3 billion savings from using tablets at schools. They are moving fast.

For the average home, tablets will slowly replace the TV. From our early childhood, the TV was an important source of information, stimuli that our brain processed and got trained by it. The tablet serves that same role, but does so interactively. Moving to the school environment, the tablet will provide access to structured learning material, ebooks, libraries, and will soon be obligatory to bring it along at school, like we did once upon a time with books. And at work the tablet will be a permanent complementary tool both to everyday work tasks and to reference and training material.

From an infant to a grown up, the tablet is here to boost our mental development and efficiency.

Sent from my iPad.  I feel smarter already. :-)

References:

This post was submitted by guest blogger Kalliopi Sigala.

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