According to Verizon national accounts manager Douglas Glenn, “Most educators realize the inevitability of mobile device learning and the huge impact it will have on how students learn 21st century skills …Today’s youth expect ubiquitous access to their lessons, allowing them to complete course work on a mobile device any time, anywhere.”
The quote was in response to questioning about a new Florida law requiring that all K-12 instructional materials be provided in digital format by the 2015-2016 school year. The law opens the door for tablets to replace traditional textbooks, which, according to estimates from the Association of American Publishers, are estimated to cost more than $8 billion a year.
The Florida law dovetails with a new federal challenge to eliminate printed textbooks within the next five years, issued on February 1, 2012, by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. These and other initiatives will undoubtedly drive increased investment in tablets, e-readers and other mobile devices on campus, from kindergarten through to higher education.
One of the prime beneficiaries will be the Android operating system, which is gaining more advocates in schools across the country for a variety of reasons. At an Encinitas, California, high school, for example, students and teachers are using Android-powered tablets largely because of their integration with Google Apps. In a SlashGear post, author Chris Davies describes how the San Dieguito Union High School District is “moving to Android.”
Here are some other reasons why the OS is popular in schools and school systems across the country:
1. Android tablets are more affordable
Textbook savings notwithstanding, many laptops can be too expensive for many families and schools. With a wider range of price points, more people can have access to Android devices, like the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. Everyone can share the same operating system, while different features—such as screen size, battery life and peripheral ports—can be selected for specialized audiences or based on personal preferences.
2. The number of Android education apps is growing
When it comes to mobile applications in the K-12 environment, an office suite and a note-taking app are essential for most students and teachers. The Android Market has numerous options, such as Olive Office Suite, Quickoffice Pro for Android, Documents to Go, Whiteboard, My Script Notes Mobile and PenReader, among others. For video editing, also popular in school, Android is supported with Google’s built-in Movie Studio application. And there are many dictionary applications, memory trainer applications, document-scanning applications, and direct learning applications for virtually every subject and grade level.
Here’s just a small sampling of some of the newer, more popular applications for Android tablets:
- HomeWork helps students keep track of all their assignment due dates and schedule school events
- Aldiko Book Reader enables a comfortable, customizable reading experience
- Recordoid Dictaphone lets students record hours of lectures and save them on their MicroSD card
- iGradr Teacher Pocket Grader is a simple and quick grading calculator
- Attendance lets teachers keep track of who’s in class
- Blackboard Mobile Learn is a whole class management system that puts every learning resource at your fingertips
- Student Clicker lets students vote on poll questions in class
3. Android facilitates new application development
Schools will continue to benefit from the fact that the openness of the Android platform spurs greater innovation, which is a definite plus in education. And since Android is an open OS, schools and districts can write their own apps according to their specific needs. App development on the Android platform can even be a classroom exercise for technology-inclined students, who may want to make a career out of software development.
4. Android tablets make it easier to share and store information
Transferring files and sharing photos documents and videos—all common tasks in an educational setting—are easier with Android devices. The OS offers a filing system to keep things organized, and connection ports and MicroSD cards enable sharing large files quickly without having to hassle with email and worry that files are too large.
5. Android tablets facilitate interactive presentations
Android devices with micro HDMI ports can be hooked up to classroom projectors. Using a digitizer pen, teachers can draw on the screen, perform equations and provide other levels of interactivity to keep students engaged.
6. Android tablets support educational websites designed in Flash
Since Apple’s iOS operating system doesn’t support Adobe Flash, teachers can’t access popular educational sites like Xtranormal, used by many teachers and students to create animated short movies. Voicethread is another Flash-based site that’s particularly valuable in ESL classrooms.
7. Android tablets enable better application management
For schools that don’t want students goofing off in class, custom OS images on Android devices can allow IT or teachers to remove the temptation of playing Angry Birds in the classroom.
Can you think of any other reasons why schools and school districts should prefer Android devices? Please share your K-12 tablet experiences with everyone in the Tablets At Work community.