Tablet computer - image Creative Commons by Derek K Miller

So, you’re thinking about teaching with tablets?

Jorge Reyna, Educational Designer, offers some tips for what to think about if you’re considering using tablets in your teaching.

Since the successful introduction of the iPad in 2010, tablet computers are becoming increasingly popular among students, professionals and everyday people. Because of their portability, quality display and touch screen capability, tablets are ideal devices for one-to-one learning, as well as field work. According to the NMC Horizon Report on Higher Education (2012), tablets are a new educational technology in their own right – a technology that blends features of laptops and smart-phones.

Tablets vs. Laptops

Tablets offer significant advantages over laptops. They turn on instantly, they have great portability and excellent battery life, wireless connectivity, intuitive touchscreen interface, high quality screen resolution. There are also thousands of applications to download to add additional functionality to the device. Recommended applications for learning and teaching across Apple and Android platforms are: Note taking (Evernote), Cloud services (DropBox, OneDrive, Box, Google Drive), Presentation (Prezi, Mightymeeting), Citation manager (Mendeley), Mind mapping (MindMeiser), Digital Storytelling (Explain Everything), Marking assignments (Good Notes, iAnnotate, Adobe Reader), Scan Documents (Turbo Scan, Scanner Pro), etc.

Pedadogically sound?

But, how we can ensure pedagogically sound use of applications in our teaching? To achieve this, we need to look at Puentedura’s SAMR Model that proposed four different levels of technology integration in the curriculum: (1) Substitution: technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change (e.g. Note taking App); (2) Augmentation: technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement (e.g. Explain Everything); (3) Modification: Technology allows for significant task redesign (e.g. Qualtrics Offline Surveys), and; (4) Redefinition: technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable (e.g. Aurasma). The Pedagogical Wheel proposed by Allan Carrington is an excellent resource to consider when using applications in the classroom as incorporates the SAMR model.

A look through current scholarly-based research into tablets and education (USA, Australia, Canada and Philippines) would indicate that: (1) research is still at an early stage; (2) Students hold a positive attitude about using iPads in their learning; (3) there was no evidence of impacts of iPad use on students’ final results found in most of the studies; (4) There is a lack of innovative pedagogical guidelines on how best to use these devices to improve academic processes and achievements; (5) There is a potential for research and exploration in the incorporation of specific applications within curriculum pedagogical design.

What to consider

If you are thinking about using tablets in your unit, you might ask yourself some preliminary questions:
(1) What are the best learning activities that can be done in the various topics on your unit using tablets?
(2) What are the main objectives you are trying to achieve using tablets?
(3) What are the main problems that could occur?
(4) What aspects of student learning would be improved by using the tablets?
(5) What applications should be recommended to the students?
These questions will help you to work out whether tablets are right for your unit.

A second and essential step before the implementation is to make sure all students have access to tablets, and that your suggested applications are available across platforms (Apple and Android). Diversity in gadgets makes tablets becoming accessible for different budgets and popular amongst our students. The Android platform is becoming robust and has increased its participation on the market in the last two years. In contrast, Windows tablets are still early stage in terms of applications and positioning on the market. (As an Educational Designer, the proliferation of different platforms makes the testing process time consuming but fun!).

The third step is to make sure that your students have a clear understanding of the task and, they are supported via tutorials or guides on how to setup the selected applications. Don’t forget to contact your Educational Designer to ask for support in the process (email

The LTC is planning to run a workshop on Teaching with Tablets each Session. In this session you will be able to discuss ideas and ways to use applications within the curriculum – stay in touch by subscribing to Teche!

Last but not least, ‘no matter what technology you use, as long as simplifies your life and give value for the people you interact … it is not about technology … it is about using it in meaningful ways … “