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Tablets | Tablet FAQs | iPads | iPad FAQs | Android Tablets |

A tablet is a mobile computing device in the form of a single tablet, most of which is made up of a touch screen. (Not to be confused with tablet PCs, which generally have an attached keyboard!)

The iPad is probably the most well known tablet, and can take credit for establishing the popularity of tablets with consumers and educators. Other tablets (available in the UK) include the Google Nexus (7” 16Gb); Samsung Galaxy Tab2 (7”, 8Gb); Kobo Arc (7” 16Gb) and Kindle Fire HD (7” 16Gb).

Frequently asked questions

We are starting to develop sets of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about the use of Tablets in schools. See

  • Tablet FAQs for pedagogical, strategic and general technical questions
  • iPad FAQs for questions specific to using iPads

VAT free purchase scheme

NOTE: I am no lawyer or VAT expert so the following information may be inaccurate! You MUST verify the accuracy of this information for yourself.

Local Authority VAT free purchase scheme

Tablets in Schools - Why and How?

N.B. Much of the following material refers specifically to iPads, but is equally applicable to any tablet. Device/platform specific information is available on the iPads page and Android Tablets page.

There is a lot of discussion and debate around the need and use of tablets in schools. The debate revolves around addressing questions like the need for replacing traditional desktops and laptops in schools with tablets, integrating tablets with current style of teaching and learning in schools, the preparedness of teachers to use tablets in schools,and the cost and technology implications of integrating tablets in school based learning (BYOD, Mobile Loan etc). This section talks through some of the above issues. Click on the reference links for further elaboration on the topic.

With regard to tablets replacing traditional desktops, there are split views. On one hand, some believe that due to small screen size, touch screen keyboard, low storage, (and the lack of USB port and support for Flash on iPads), the design of tablets is more suitable for content consumption and not suitable for content creation [1]. On the other hand, Moore's Law and the limited demands most users have on their systems will mean an tablets will have the power to run 98% of today's workloads, as people who prefer stable and powerful workstations are a tiny minority of computer users. Even today the tablets limitations are mostly software, not hardware [2].

The real strength of a tablet lies in its mobility and flexibility to make it work as one wants to : a reader, creator, consumer, organizer, response system, musical instrument, and much more [3]. Some of the actions which a tablet supports in classroom includes research, collaboration, communication, creativity, engagement, extended learning, and evaluation. It is this mobility, flexibility and multi-purpose facet of the tablet that calls for re-evaluating the role of teachers in the classrooms, for effective teaching, by leveraging the benefits of tablets and other mobile technologies. Thus, with the introduction of tablets, the role of teachers should shift from being less of a coach and more of a curator of information [4].

Few critical mistakes which schools/teachers make with the use of tablets are – focus on subject specific content apps, lack of teacher preparation in the classroom management of tablets, treatment of tablets as laptops/desktops, dealing with tablets as multi-user devices [5]. Tablets are a new phenomena in the classroom, and is thus challenging for many teachers to effectively integrate them in classroom teaching. Tablets largely remain a device focused on content consumption. There are lot of apps for content creation on both iOS and Android, but teachers are struggling to incorporate them with the curriculum. Also, while students are actively using apps, this remains an uncharted territory for many teachers [6].

There are various areas which schools should be aware of before rolling out tablet initiatives [7]. Dion Norman,an experienced technology educator lists down the tips for tablet integration in the classrooms from his experience in Singapore and Australia [8]. Dion emphasises on the need for allowing time and support for teachers to become comfortable with a tablet before taking it to the classrooms. The tablets should not be used as a teaching tool, but as a tool that can help students solve specific problems, overcome certain obstacles and create content to demonstrate their understanding. The tablets are most effectively used if a teacher starts with the end goal in mind, the inspiration, the challenge and then determines if an tablet can be used, not to teach new content to students, but to allow them to achieve the end goal [9][10].

Apps for Education

Find the latest and most commonly used iPad and Android apps used for educational purposes in the schools. The list contains examples of apps for all age groups (K-12) and across different subjects. Feel free to add more more educational apps to the list. See the section on the Flipped Classrooms also.

  • Review of Explain Everything This seems to be a very useful app, which has been brought to our attention from one of the Case Study schools as well.

Performance vs Perceived Performance

An interesting research report has been published, measuring pupils' reading performance and their perceived performance, using tablets and paper. The boys thought their performance on tablets was better than that using paper, whereas the girls thought the opposite. In practice, there was no statistical difference in some cases, but it varied according to age.

Interestingly, as pointed out to us by Animoca, the Report states that:

"The teachers of grades 1, 4 and 6 students participating in this study reported no effect on academic performance after one month of regular in-class tablet use."

-- although there is a caveat to the effect that perhaps there is more of an impact of using tablets over a longer period.

Read a summary of the findings in The Androids are back: results of the tablets for education study, or the report itself: Does the Medium Matter?

Lesson design using an iPad

It is extremely important to think about instructional use, and to that end, consider the following questions before deploying it in classrooms, as described by Terry Heick, Director of Curriculum at TeachThought [11].

  • What are the goals for iPad implementation? Engagement, access to digital textbooks, access to digital environments, primarily media consumption, media production, or a blend of everything?
  • What can the iPad do that is not possible–or is clunky and cumbersome–without it? That is, what learning problems does the iPad solve?
  • What sort of instructional planning are you using–traditional units, project-based learning, game-based learning, or something else? That is, what style of learning are you expecting the iPad to actuate?
  • How should your instructional design and lesson planning be revised as a result of the iPad? What “fail-safes” should be built into activities to ensure learning is possible when the technology misbehaves and doesn’t do what you ask?
  • What is your own comfort level with technology? What digital, physical, and human resources are available when something is needed?
  • Will the iPad’s use always require special, specific planning? What changes could you make to allow the iPad’s application in the classroom to be more organic and fluid?
  • What is the role of learner in iPad use? Can they choose which apps they use to solve a problem? Suggest better apps for better problem-solving? Switch between tasks, assignments, and activities freely, or a follow-only approach?
  • Is the learning environment you design and manage technology-centered, standards-centered, data-centered, or student-centered?
  • How can you experiment with new instructional styles to take advantage of mobile learning devices in the classroom? For example, quick, open-ended, digital problem-solving competitions that utilize quick bursts of higher-level thinking skills in individual and collaborative arrangements.
  • How committed are you to overcoming unforeseen challenges?

Considering above questions is extremely essential before designing a workflow plan using iPad. Some of the examples of workflow plans used in classrooms are given below.

Examples of iPad workflow plans

  • iPad Lesson Workflows - Understanding how iPad can be used in classroom to create exciting and engaging lessons.
  • iPad Placemat - Beautiful pictorial guide with suggestive apps / tools to create iPad workflow for classrooms.
  • iPad Lessons- Plenty of ideas demonstrating the use of iPad apps for creative learning.
  • Classroom ideas - Lots of ideas for learning with the iPad. Provides pointers to enable teachers to reflect on the goals and beliefs underlying the learning process using any tablet.
  • Heads' Blog: New Technology - A short video (around 9 minutes) showing how mobile technologies such as iPads and Flip pocket camcorders are used in Moorside CTC.

Points of View

This section contains view points around the use of tablets in education.

  • Tablets and Education- An interesting article on 'digital device war' and the need to address inherent issues of cost, adaptability, and scalablity of these devices for digital learning (Forbes, 8-August-2012)
  • Windows 8 vs the iPad- Thoughts on why windows 8 will lose to the iPad in Education. (Cult of Mac, 23-Aug-2012)
  • Kobie (2012) - The school that swapped its laptops for iPads ... and wants to switch back. PC Pro. 11-Sept-2012. (accessed 14-Sept-2012)
  • According to MeeFeedia, cited in the draft elearning manual, iPad users consume three times as many videos as web users, and spend four times as long watching videos as web users. The authors suggest that these facts make iPads great vehicles for the delivery of educational resources.
  • An article questioning whether many schools are using their tablets to best effect. Schools need to start "thinking mobile". iPads, tablets and learning
  • iPads in theclassroom: worth doing right - Some words of caution about rolling out tablet schemes without thinking them through carefully first by Lee Badman in the USA (talks about iPads but says the same issues apply to all models)


It's arguable that one reason that iPads appear to be more popular in education than Android-based tablets is the plethora of Android operating systems. This and other aspects of fragmentation are covered in The Fragmentation of Mobile Fragmentation, by Charlie Kindel.

Research and Resources

  • BESA (2013) A survey of teachers in primary and secondary schools and some commercial providers, looking at attitudes to and uptake of tablets in schools in England.

The report summarises the current levels of uptake of tablets, and reports projections of future uptake by 2020. It looks at the key barriers to uptake (funding is the major one in both primary and secondary according to respondents), and preferred organisational and funding models.

  • What the research says about iPads in the classroom by Wilma Clark and Rosemary Luckin at the London Knowledge Lab. Published Jan-2013.
  • iPads in Schools Report This is an interesting and very accessible report carried out by Teachable, and is based on interviews with 13 schools from around the world which have adopted a mobile learning solution in one form or another (all but five use iPads). It contains useful (if obvious) advice on evaluating apps and engaging teachers. Many of the suggestions will apply regardless of the particular type of mobile device adopted, including a BYOD solution. The report includes a short section on other research, which includes the Scottish report (see below).
  • Scottish iPad Evaluation Report on evaluation of iPads (1:1 Computing) in Scottish schools. The Executive Summary contains a large number of recommendations for Government, Local Authorities and Schools. As with the Teachable report (above), many of the recommendations, especially for schools, will apply to other mobile learning approaches, including BYOD.
  • 11 apps for education Article in Secondary Ed, looking at 11 apps which the author uses to engage students and also promote writing and literacy.

"The Mobile Teaching Projects Network is the international community for sharing mobile teaching lesson apps in Art, History, Language Arts, Math, Music, and Science. With the Mobile Teaching Projects Network you will be able to connect with other teachers and parents, collaborate on creative mobile app ideas, and create innovative learning apps for mobile teaching." At the time of writing it appears to be devoid of resources.

  • Heinrich, P (2012). The iPad as a tool for education. Nottingham: Naace
  • Kobie, N. (2012). The school that swapped its laptops for iPads.
  • Lai, E. (2012) Four reasons why school tablet rollouts can stumble or fail.
  • Mellhuish, K. and Falloon, G. (2010). Looking to the future: m-learning with the iPad. Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, Leading, Technology, 22(3).

Queensland, Govt of (2012). iPad Trial

  • Speirs, F. (2012). The iPad Project. Sequence of blog posts about one school's 'iPad journey'.
  • Educators Technology a website with lots of info about mobile technology in education, '21st century learning', and the like. Including lots of resources for teachers (and learners).

Recommended apps

Whilst it is dangerous to recommend resources as such, there are some which appear again and again in lists of suggested or recommended apps, and in discussions with colleagues. This list is therefore intended as a hopefully useful starting point for those seeking to collate a set of apps for use in their school. Please add to this list if you know of any apps which are used, and recommended, by several teachers or websites.

Individual apps

  • Explain Everything is a design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations. IPad only.
  • Evernote enables you to take notes, recordings or photos and store them online, and access them from ay device. Evernote synchronises notes between devices. Available for any platform.
  • Penultimate is an app which enables you to write and draw by hand on the iPad. It integrates with Evernote. iPad only.
  • Skitch is an annotation tool which can be used on photos and maps. Integrates with Evernote. Available for any platform.
  • Socrative is a student response system ('voting system') for the iPad. There is a student version and a teacher version.

Collections of apps

Someone has put together what appears to be a very useful document -- Texas Literacy Grant Apps by Grade Level -- listing iPad literacy-related apps by 'grade level'. In the USA, grade levels are similar to the UK's Year groups: add 5 or 6 to obtain the age range. See US School Grades for a full exposition]. Unfortunately, the apps listed do not have any links, either to the apps store or to websites explaining or reviewing the apps. Also, of course, the document was compiled for Texas schools. However, it may prove to be a useful starting point for colleagues interested in this area. The link was provided by David Reimer, of Filewave, to the Ed Tech Discussion List.

The iPad resources section of the Getting Smart blog by Tom Vander Ark is well worth a look. It lists collections of resources and guides. For example, 10 Must Have iPad Apps for Students and Teachers, 50+ iPad Apps By a Geography Teacher, Best Academic Reference Apps for the iPad, and 18 Ways iPads Are Being Used In Classrooms Right Now, to name just a few. Tom Vander Ark is regarded as a key thinker, so while we cannot claim to examined every resource listed, it is probably fair to make a working assumption that they are worth investigating.

Stuff to add

The iPad in education: uses, benefits and challenges. A survey of 6,057 students and 302 teachers in Quebec (Canada) published in December 2013. The summary reports that "incorporating the iPad into education constitutes a necessary risk for schools, and that this technological tool has breathtaking cognitive potential" but highlights that effective implementation is not straightforward and requires effective professional development. The main use of iPads reported in this study was to access eTextbooks ...

Use of tablet technology in the classroom is a report of a study on the use of tablets (iPads) in New South Wales schools.

Only the iPad which is a set of resources related to iPads in schools (on I've listed it here because much of the content seems to me to be relevant across different types of tablets, though some of it is iPad specific.

Larry Cuban commentting on Los Angeles' large scale roll out of iPads

Creative Classroom Labs is a European Schoolnet project looking at the effective use of tablets in schools. Started in Apr-2013 and due to finish in Mar-2015. UK is involved.

syded is "just another wordpress blog" written by a teacher. It includes lots of posts about the use of iPads in the classroom.

Bebell, Dorris and Muir (2012) Results of Maine's 1:1 iPad in kindergarden study - a nine week random controlled trial/quasi-experimental study involving 266 pupils in 16 classes in 6 schools. No significant differences found between the iPad/no-iPad groups except for "the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (HRSIW) subtest, which measures a child’s level of phonemic awareness and ability to represent sounds with letters, where the iPad pupils made significantly more progress (t= 2.36, p.<.05).

Using iPads in School by Paul Carneyarts (2013) is billed as a guide to using iPads in education on the TES website. It doesn't seem to me to contain much in the way of high quality practical advice and you have to register with the TES site to access it.

Five Tips for Teachers Introducing Devices to the Classroom from @juandoming - good basic advice for those starting out with tablets (or any technology actually).