Tablets are quickly being adopted by school districts around the U.S., and some experts believe the new portable technology is improving student engagement. According to a study by Kajeet and Project Tomorrow, tablets were given to two different schools for eighth graders to use in class and outside of school.
"[The report evaluated] how access to these devices for communication with teachers and classmates increases comfort with technology, extends the learning day, and allows students to develop digital citizenship skills within a safe and secure learning environment," the study reported.
Different learning behaviors from tablets
Some of the early findings of the report discovered students altered their learning behaviors because of the devices and had better access to learning resources outside of school. The report found students that used the device for educational purposes exceeded the original estimates for the group.
Additionally, teachers were able to engage their students in more creative and interactive work in the classroom. The tablets also helped teachers stay more connected with students, which created better classroom interactions.
According to a recent International Data Corporation press release, in 2015, the forecasted number of tablet shipments across the world is expected to be 233 million units. Additionally, with the new iPhone 6 Plus and other large hybrid phone and tablet devices increasing, the amount of "phablet" devices are expected to surpass 318 million units.
Simply put, hand-held computer devices are growing rapidly in popularity, and schools see this as a way to keep students engaged with their class work. Verdon Kelliher, director of Samsung New Zealand Enterprise, explained that speed of growth within tablets is due to the numerous functionalities, the New Zealand Herald reported.
"Tablets are not just about accessing the Internet and keeping the kids happy with games and movies," said Kelliher, according to the source.
Student testing on digital formats
Schools are also starting to move their standardized tests to the digital format, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Some of the multiple choice questions on standardized tests were not engaging the students for reasoning on answers, but the new versions used on laptops and tablets have students using more information learned in the classroom.
Paper tests also took much longer to process - even on Scantron formats. The new tests are able to give results much faster for students. For Kelliher, business motives are the same as what schools want.
"While entertainment is still massively popular, we're seeing more and more educators and businesses across a range of sectors incorporating tablets into their operations and realizing the tangible benefits," said Kelliher, according to the Herald. "As the awareness of what tablets are capable of grows, we'll continue to see the corresponding growth in their adoption across many new markets."
Personal tablets increase learning time
In the Kajeet and Project Tomorrow study, the research the eighth graders who were able to take home their devices had more time to study. In homes with one computer and multiple children, it can be more difficult to find time to use the computer as a learning device. When students had their individual tablets, they didn't have to compete for Internet access with family members.
Not only that, but students in the research group raised their knowledge of mobile technology usage and activities by having the device on them at home and in class, the report stated. However, when devices are taken home, schools should invest in personal insurance to protect the devices.
"This project represents a landmark study in the developing K-12 mobile learning space," said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, according to the report. "This study is important because it gets beyond simply putting a tablet in the hands of students, and it examines how to effectively implement tablets within instruction to improve student learning."