Are Tablets Good For School?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 02/06/19 •  15 min read

Technology is increasing at a rate we have never seen before, and students learn differently today than they did 20 years ago.  Given the penetration that technology has had on all of our lives, not to mention the attention deficit that today’s students suffer from, are tablets good for school?

There are many advantages for students who use tablets in the classroom today and the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.  The Students of today have an unprecedented opportunity to learn like no other student in the history of the world because they literally have the world at their fingertips.

We are going to take a look at three major student categories.  These include elementary school students, middle and high school students, and finally, college students.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of using tablets in the classroom for each student category?  How can tablets help the students of today reach their full potential tomorrow by becoming productive citizens?

The Technology of Today

As previously mentioned, technology is increasing at a rate we have never seen before.  As an example, may I remind you that it has only been 11 years since the first iPhone was first introduced.  Today, both the rich and the poor have cell phones, regardless of their economic status.

13 years ago, I served as a high school teacher.  There was a “computer lab“ where students would go to do “computer work“.  Today, computers are now the norm in every classroom in America.  If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to visit your local high school and ask to see one of their classrooms.

The personal computer has added tremendous value to students, giving them the ability to research any topic using the global library, the internet.

The iPad is only become more powerful in time.

As of September 2018, the iPad Pro 2018 was faster than 92% of all laptop computers in the 12 months leading up to the release of the iPad Pro 2018.

Since the birth of the iPad nearly 9 years ago, over 400 million iPads have found their way into the hands of users worldwide.  As of January 2019, the iPad boasted a 73% market share, whereas Android trailed behind by 47 percentage point with only a 26% market share.

In fact, in 2018 the iPad outsold every other manufacturer’s notebook sales, including  HP, Lenovo, Asus, Acer, and Dell, making the iPad the most popular computer on the planet. Clearly the tablet is not a “fad”, and it’s here to stay.

Before we move on in our discussion, I think it is important to note that when we speak of “tablets” in school, let’s be honest; we are talking about iPads, not Android tablets.  At least in K-12 schools.  College and University students may use the Microsoft Surface (which technically is a tablet), but more on that later.  The real reason why we are not focusing on the Microsoft Surface as a contender is because it is not used on a wide scale in the K-12 educational system due to it’s price tag.  It starts at $799.

Google, the parent company of the Android operating system has given up on selling tablets to schools, in favor of selling their Chromebooks.  If you didn’t catch that, Google has clearly lost the tablet war, certainly when it comes to education.

Student use of iPads report overwhelmingly that students enjoy learning and stay more focused when using iPads.  Given the popularity of the iPad, what impact will it have on the education of our students?  Let’s take a look at each student category and discuss the the implications it will have on the educational system, but more importantly, on our students.

Tablets for Elementary School Students

In the community that I live in, every student in grades 3 – 5, get an iPad, and grades K-2 have six iPads per classroom.  Suffice it to say, the educators have thoroughly embraced the use of iPads for grade-school students.

One of the most important lessons a grade school student will learn when using an iPad, really doesn’t have anything to do with how to use the iPad but rather, in how to take care of the iPad.

The iPad teaches kids how to take care of something that does not belong to them.

This probably will be the first time that a grade school student will have to care take ownership of something that does not belong to them.  In our society as a whole, this is not a lesson that is generally learned at home.  This is primarily due to the fact that they have never been introduced to caring for something that did not belong to them, but rather to somebody else.

To complicate matters, it is very difficult to effectively communicate to grade school students that if they break the iPad that is assigned to them, they won’t to get another one.  Granted, the iPads that are given out to grade school students are encased with a case that will take a lot of abuse. That, however, does not account for the open face display itself.

Personally, I think that this is a great life lesson to teach kids at very early age. Learning how to care for something that does not belong to you is a very important life lesson.

As teachers, it is important to understand that grade school students don’t necessarily know how to search the Internet using Google Chrome or Safari for that matter.  They have to be taught how to use tools that adults or even high school students take for granted.

Are there lessons that can be learned from this? Absolutely. For example, this is when you teach Children how to search the Internet responsibly. Just as it is important for them to learn how to use the Internet to do research, it is important for them to know how not to use the Internet for their own safety.

Kids need to be taught how to use the Internet responsibly.

Just like you don’t start teaching kids not to take drugs when they are in juniors or seniors in high school, you don’t wait until they are juniors and seniors to teach them how to use the Internet responsibly either.

There is one important thing I want to bring to your attention regarding the use of tablets in the classroom.  The tablet is a tool, not the teacher.  It is a tool that the teacher will use to teach the kids, and it does not replace the teacher.  It will not teach you right from wrong, but the teacher will.  It will not teach you what honor and respect is, or how to demonstrate it, but a teacher will.

iPads do increase classroom participation but not because they are iPads, but rather because teachers who integrate iPads into their lesson plans tend to do more project-based learning.  Again, this is attributable to teachers who look for ways to get their students engaged in learning at a young age.

Tablets for Middle School And High School Students

One of the hardest things for teenagers to grasp is the importance of learning.  Every day, teachers do all they can to get their students to engage in their lesson plan.  Fortunately, the iPad does just that. It engages the student.

There are numerous reports throughout the country that show evidence that the integration of the iPad into the lesson plan has increased student engagement dramatically.  This is not limited to one geographical region, but rather the country as a whole. This makes sense, given how engaged young people are in gaming systems.

Technology is the Native language that students speak today.

Let’s not forget that the teenager today does not know what life was like before computers were in every home.  In fact, I would argue that they feel more “at home“ behind a computer than they do in a classroom.  There are those who think that this is a horrible thing, but culture changes and adapting to that change is the key to moving forward, especially with teenagers.  Instead of fighting it, teachers would be wise to embrace technology.

Students are not going to abandon technology, they see it as their future. I would think it wise to partner with students by Integrating technology that assists in helping them learn and grow.  If we nurture them in their native language, there is a higher probability that they will not only succeed, but excl.

I know that security concerns tend to be one of the biggest reasons people do not think that iPads should be used within the classroom. These concerns fall under two categories.  The first concern tends to be about what the students have access to, ie., pornography, weapons, etc.  The second concern has to do with privacy, more specifically, students “friending” other people on the Internet, or giving their information out on websites that are questionable. Let’s take a look at each of these concerns.

Security Concerns

Rest assured that security measures have been implemented in every classroom that integrates the iPad into a teachers lesson plan.  Every iPad that is connected to the Internet does so via Wi-Fi, meaning that the network administrator of the school has complete control over what websites are accessible and what websites are not accessible. There is no way around this because every iPad in every classroom can only connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi.   The bottom line is that students will not be able to connect to the Internet via LTE because the LTE functionality is not built into the iPads distributed by the school.

Privacy Concerns

In my opinion, all middle school students should be required to take and pass a course on Internet Etiquette.  This course would talk about the both the positive aspects and negative aspects of the Internet, teaching them what to, and what not to do on the Internet.

Social Media is addicting, and frankly, teenagers as a whole, do not know how to use the Internet responsibly because they have never been taught.  Students are educated on how to prevent a fire from destroying their home, but they are not taught how to prevent their reputation from being destroyed when using the Internet.

All in all, I think that middle school students as well as high school students, would benefit tremendously By using an iPad in the classroom.  Note that I am not arguing that teenagers should be bringing an iPad home from school, as the risk of damaging the iPad itself goes up exponentially as soon as the iPad leaves the classroom. Distributing the iPads at the beginning of class and collecting them at the end of class will only make the class time experience more enjoyable.

Tablets for College Students

When we refer to the use of an tablet for college students, we certainly are not talking about only using it only in the classroom. Many colleges and universities these days incorporate the cost of either a laptop computer or an tablet, (or maybe even both), in their tuition fees.

As a college student, the responsibility for the tablet and how to use the it, lies squarely on the student, and the school shares no responsibility whatsoever in how they conduct themselves online.  It takes no responsibility for the care of the tablet itself either, as all of that responsibility lies with the student, as it should.  After all, we are now talking about adults, not children.

Are tablets good for college students? You bet they are.

The college student can take their tablet anywhere on campus without having to lug around a laptop computer.  The convenience factor alone makes it well worth the price of the tablet.

All college campuses now incorporate Wi-Fi throughout their campus, allowing students to connect their wireless devices to the Internet via Wi-Fi.  For the student, there is no added expense when using a tablet on campus. Now, should they take that tablet off campus and do not have an LTE enabled device, they will either need to use their phone as a hotspot to connect to the Internet or purchase a tablet that has LTE built into it.

The Apple Pencil for College Students

The tablet, specifically the iPad, is of tremendous value to the college student because they can take notes in class with the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil will cost an extra hundred dollars to purchase, however, in my opinion, it is well worth the money.  In fact, not too long ago I asked my own college student if they found the Apple Pencil useful with their iPad as a student, and she told me that it was an indispensable accessory.

The Apple Pencil is an indispensable accessory for the college student.

iPad Cases for the College Student

There are numerous cases for the iPad that Incorporate a keyboard into the case. This means that as a student you can attend a class and pull out your iPad and take notes with the keyboard. You also can type term papers and pretty much everything else that you would do on a laptop, without having to lug a laptop around campus.

You may be wondering when I will bring up the Microsoft Surface, because “technically”, it can be a tablet, but that is not it’s primary function.  Yes, it can be turned into a tablet, but it is primarily a very thin lightweight full version of Windows.  Frankly, it’s the best of both worlds, and I don’t slam it.  For college students, this might be just what you need.  However, schools do not hand out Microsoft Surface to K-12 students, as they are very expensive, (they start at $799, whereas Apple sells the iPad to schools for $299).

Microsoft Office 365 for the College Student

I must mention the absolute necessity of purchasing a Microsoft 365 subscription.  The cost is only $6.99 per month and will allow the student to save every document, photo, or file in the cloud using OneDrive.

One drive is an online storage space that is unique to the student.  With an office 365 subscription, the student will be granted one terabyte of cloud storage to save documents, images and files.  A terabyte is 1,000 GB.  That’s a lot of storage space, to say the least.  This subscription service is something that both parents and students will absolutely love. There are just so many benefits to using a Microsoft Office 365 subscription all throughout college.

For example, documents are automatically saved saved in real time, as you type, and you’ll never lose any of the work that you have invested your time and energy on, because it’s always backed up to the cloud in real time.

Additionally, with Microsoft Office 365, students can collaborate with other students on a term paper at the same time, and all changes to the document are saved in real time.  Your work will never be lost.

Why mention office 365? Because it offers so much value when deciding whether or not to determine if it is a good solution for college students. Literally everything that you can do on a computer or laptop can be done on an iPad to using Microsoft Office 365. Gone are the days where an iPad serves as a watered down version of what a laptop or desktop could deliver. On the contrary, iPads are starting to surpass the speeds and capabilities of what laptops and the Desktop computers can deliver.

How Can Tablets Help Students Reach Their Full Potential?

I am honestly not trying to sound biased, but it is my opinion that tablets can absolutely help students reach their full potential. This applies to grade school students, middle and high school students, as well as college students.

Each student category listed will use the iPad differently, but the flexibility of the tablet is where the power lies.  It is convenient. It is useful. It is fun.  I am many years beyond college now and I use my iPad every day to write, and watch TV.  I am so convinced of its usefulness, I bought one for my daughter who is in college.  She uses it all the time, and her needs are drastically different than mine, yet she finds it incredibly useful.

The fact that the same device can be used by a grade school students, a middle and high school students, and college students as well, makes this a spectacular educational tool for the classroom.

How Much Disk Space Should I Get For My iPad Pro?
Unless you do a LOT of video editing, most people won’t need a lot of disk space.  You can get 50GB of storage costs $0.99 a month. The next tier up is 200GB for only $2.99. Finally, if you need a ridiculous amount of cloud storage, you can get 1TB for only $9.99 per month.

How Long Will iPads Last?
An iPad will last for several years, so long as you do not leave it in extreme temperatures, like the inside of a hot car on a summer day, or outside in a shed in the middle of winter where temperatures get below freezing.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.