From Old School to High-Tech: Education's Tablet Takeover

Posted on November 06, 2013

It seems that every day brings a new, attention-grabbing headline about the speed at which tablets (iPad, Android, and Windows Surface) are taking over classrooms. But are headlines like these really indicative of what's happening in U.S. schools?

It's true that educators nationwide are racing to take advantage of the cost, ease-of-use, and educational advantages that come with equipping K-12 students with tablets. But the provocative headlines that seem to herald a day when the textbook is a thing of the past are just a bit premature.

The truth is that making the transition to tablets in the classroom isn't an instant process. Although many kids arrive in kindergarten as digital natives, there's still a gap between the technology available to the poorest students and their more economically blessed counterparts.

More importantly, it takes time, money, teacher training, and planning to integrate tablets into everyday lessons. So, despite the headlines, it's premature to report the death of the textbook just yet. Many school districts are running into problems they didn't consider when they began rolling-out a program to bring tablet technologies into the classroom. 

Classroom iPad users

One of the biggest issues facing schools is security. 

Education is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country, and maintaining the privacy of student data " from grades to assignments modified under an individual education plan (IEP) " can be a big barrier to tablet roll-outs. On-device encryption, like that provided by Breezy as part of the wireless printing process, can make a big difference in FERPA compliance.

According to Jared Hansen, CEO of Breezy, printing is another issue that many schools have struggled with. Students and teachers print a lot, even in schools with advanced tablet programs. "Unless students can print securely and wirelessly from the tablet, printing out an assignment can quickly become a bottleneck that wastes student and teacher time," he says. "In many schools, students don't have access to a printer at home, so even if they do homework on a school-provided tablet, they have to print it out at school. If that means waiting in a lab for an open computer connected to a printer, it can mean long lines before school, at lunch, and between periods."

Hansen adds that there's also the question of tracking and cost control for print jobs. "We"ve seen several requests for proposals lately from school districts where Breezy's print management tools that can restrict students to specific printers and features such as black & white printing, or require that print jobs be linked to specific assignments instead of allowing students to print personal or extracurricular materials at school expense are critical functions for cash-strapped districts."

Once the basic issues of security, printing, and teacher training have been overcome, the opportunities that tablets bring to education are almost limitless, however. Educationdive reported on a number of important classroom benefits to using tablets, and Hansen believes that solutions like Breezy will enable schools to move more quickly with tablet deployment by removing the last remaining barriers.

Tablets are uniquely suited to some valuable classroom enhancements, such as:

"Kids spend hours every day interacting with technology at home, and it makes no sense to shut that down when they get to school," Hansen says. "Breezy is working with school districts, private schools, and universities across the U.S. to deliver secure mobile printing as part of high-technology classrooms. I don't think there's any question that tablets will eventually replace most textbooks. The only question is how quickly that happens."

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