As the popularity of tablet PCs continues to increase, there is an ongoing debate as to the cost versus educational benefits of using tablets in the classroom. Depending on who you ask, tablets can save schools thousands of dollars and revolutionize education or eat through budgets and severely hinder a student’s attention span. It is only fair for educational decision makers to examine both sides of the cost-benefit issue to see if tablets would be appropriate for their classrooms.
Cost of Tablets
From a purely monetary standpoint, proponents of tablets in classrooms cite the Federal Communications Commission’s 2012 report that E-textbooks could save K-12 school districts between $250-$1,000 per student per year (FCC, 2012). Additionally, tablets help cut down on the use of paper and ink for handouts and other assignments. A typical school of 1,000 students spends between $3,000-$4,000 per month on paper, ink, and toner (Johnson, 2011). Conversely, those opposed to the use of tablets would argue that implementation of these devices costs 552% more than a textbook when the entire lifespan of a standard book is taken into account (Wilson, 2012).
So which estimate is correct? The simple fact is that the overall cost of implementation will vary per school and will require some additional research on a situational basis, but ultimately the implementation of tablets is likely to cost more than traditional textbooks. The real question is whether the additional cost can be justified by the benefits that tablets provide to the classroom.
Educational Benefits of Tablets
The response to tablets from schools that have chosen to implement these devices has been largely positive. According to a survey conducted by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 81% of K-12 teachers surveyed believe that tablets enrich classroom education (Mills, 2012), and an additional 77% believe that technology increases a student’s motivation to learn (FCC, 2012). These finding correspond with a similar survey conducted by two school districts in Maine that found 83% of students felt more interested in school when they were using a tablet (Ion, 2012).
While general opinions are great for gauging interest in these devices, most curriculum directors are looking for concrete proof. As it relates to test scores, schools that have implemented iPads and other tablet PCs have seen an overall increase in test scores. One middle school in California experienced 20% higher scores on a state math assessment among students who used an interactive Alegebra application versus those who used a traditional textbook.
Tablets offer the ability to constantly update material rather than waiting for an entire book lifecycle, which would allow students to receive the most up to date information in rapidly evolving subjects such as science. The wear and tear associated with tablets will need to be managed by school systems, but most companies offer insurance policies with their devices that could minimize any potential headaches for administrators. The jury is still out on tablets in the classroom, but the early results seem to be promising as more and more schools choose to make the switch.
About the Author
David Engelhardt has over 26 years of experience in software and hardware solutions development in healthcare and manufacturing, with a particular focus on mobile technologies. David is the founder and President of ReadyDock Inc. He is passionate and committed to providing safe, and workflow efficient methods to enable clinicians and patients to enhance care through the use of innovative technologies. In the small window of time when he is not working or spending time with his amazing wife and daughter, he spends his time playing USTA tennis, collecting vinyl records, and shaping music and sound in his recording studio.
Federal Communications Commission. (2012, February 01). Digital textbook playbook. Retrieved from http://tablets-textbooks.procon.org/sourcefiles/digital-textbook-playbook.pdf
Harcourt, M. (2012, January 31). Ipads boost math scores, benefit education mob.org » news. Retrieved from http://mob.org/news/2012/01/31/ipads_boost_math_scores_benefit_education.html
Ion, F. (2012, April 18). iPads in the classroom are changing the face of education. Retrieved from http://www.maclife.com/article/features/ipads_classroom_are_changing_face_edu cation
Johnson, B. (2011, February 23). Paper and pencil curriculum: How much do you rely on it?. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/paperless-schools-techology-ben-johnson
Mills, M. (2012, January 23). National pbs survey finds teachers want more access to classroom tech . Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2012/teacher-survey-fetc/
Wilson, L. (2012, February 23). Apple’s ipad textbooks cost 5x more than print. Retrieved from http://tablets-textbooks.procon.org/sourcefiles/print-vs-itext.pdf