August 13, 2011

Tablets, laptops, notebooks becoming indispensable for students


Business Wire - Accessories and apps can make iPads even more useful in classroom settings.

More students will be arriving at class this school year with notebooks and tablet computers as the electronic gadgets swiftly morph from personal tech devices to indispensable learning tools.

Retailers are pushing iPad 2s, Acer tablets and other small, lightweight computers as part of their back-to-school promotions this year.

Laptop vs. tablet | Poll: Your next computer purchase

Manufacturers such as Lenovo also are promoting their products as basic back-to-school essentials and working on educational applications to enhance their value in the classroom.

And really, what more do students need? They can download textbooks onto the devices, record lectures, take notes, do research, write papers, communicate with teachers and other students and perform many other school-related tasks.

Laptop and notebook computers have been necessary school supplies on college campuses for years and are now increasingly showing up at high schools and middle schools.

Now tablet computers, such as iPad 2s, Motorola Xooms and Samsung Galaxy Tabs, are making an appearance on campus, and educators and tech experts say they're here to stay.

Back to school is the second biggest annual shopping event after Christmas, and the National Retail Federation expects computers to claim a bigger piece of back-to-school budgets this year because of the popular iPad and numerous new tablet computers hitting the market.

Chance Keane, shift manager at the Walmart Supercenter at 2501 W. Happy Valley Road in Phoenix, reports brisk sales of laptops, tablets and notebook computers for back to school this year.

IPad 2s are the best sellers, but Keane said demand is picking up for other tablets such as the Acer, $400 at Walmart, and HP TouchPads, $600.

- Office-supply retailer Staples Inc., which has been making a big push into back to school, is featuring eight tablet computers this year, including a Dell Streak 7 for $300 and a Motorola Xoom, $500. Staples also is offering a $100 gift card with the purchase of select laptops and a student ID.

"Technology is everywhere for back to school this year," Staples spokeswoman Karen Pevenstein said. "It's no longer pencil boxes and red notebooks."

- At Target, students can trade in their old electronic gear for a store credit that can be used to upgrade to an iPad 2 for $500 or an Acer Aspire One Notebook, $330.

The National Retail Federation estimated the average American household with K-12 students will spend $600 on back to school, with college students and their families spending more. Of that, $190 will be spent on computers, cellphones and tablet devices. That's a slight increase over 2010 and compares with lower expenditures for clothing and non-electronic school supplies forecast for 2011.

Classroom staples

Educators tend to favor notebooks over the new tablets because they are better at creating content. But they recognize the tablets' potential - and their lower costs -and are finding ways to make the gadgets work. Tablet makers also are working on applications to make their devices handle schoolwork better.

Incoming freshmen at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix were issued Lenovo ThinkPad notebook computers Aug. 1 that they will carry for the next four years at the private Jesuit high school. All of the textbooks and study materials students will need during their terms at Brophy are loaded onto the ThinkPads, which are built by Lenovo according to the school's specifications. The students pay about $2,000 for the computers but save on the cost of text books and study materials.

Jim Bopp, Brophy's assistant principal for technology and instruction, said the school was a forerunner in the integration of notebook computers into its curriculum.

The school issued computers to a group of 30 sophomores in a pilot program six years ago and now requires all 1,300 of its students to have one.

"It's been a learning curve for us, but I can't imagine going back," Bopp said.

At Phoenix Union High School District's Bioscience school at 512 E. Pierce St. in Phoenix, all students are issued notebook computers. Although all of the district's schools have computer labs, curriculum supervisor Sharon Bernero said Bioscience is the only campus where all students have their own computers.

At schools that do not require computers, enterprising students are bringing their own devices and finding ways to use them to help with their schoolwork, she said.

Some schools are integrating tablet computers, such as iPads, into their curriculums.

Arizona Christian University will be offering iPad 2s to incoming freshmen this fall. The northeast Phoenix school, formerly called Southwestern College, is spending $100,000 on the tablet computers for about 200 students, who will make up its largest incoming class in history.

How to choose?

This year, Brophy switched to Lenovo computers from Toshibas and looked at using iPads.

While the iPad worked well for consuming content, Bopp said, it fell short as a tool for creating it because of limited word-processing capabilities.

"We need our teachers and students to do both," Bopp said.

Full-time master of business administration students at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University are required to have laptops and last year, the school became one of the first in the country to test iPads in its classrooms.

"More students were showing up with them, and we wanted to see if they were a comparable substitute for a laptop," said Tami Coronella, the business school's director of MBA student services.

The study concluded the iPad and other tablet computers have potential but that a laptop is preferable as a classroom tool.

Coronella cited rules set by textbook publishers that require downloaded digital textbooks to expire in 180 days. But she said tablet computers are here to stay in classrooms and that the computer makers will find a way to overcome the current shortcomings of the devices.

ASU has identified several products that allow students to access course materials and other school programs on their tablets.

"Students want to interact with iPads and tablet computers, and we can't ignore that," Coronella said.


Computers get smaller, more versatile

Here are brief descriptions of several computer types, generally made for individual use:

Desktop: Single-user, stationary computer, generally a PC or Mac, which resides on the top of a desk.

Laptop: Portable computer, weighing up to 12 pounds, that has a LCD screen and built-in batteries for mobile use.

Notebook: Small, lightweight laptop, generally with fewer capabilities.

Tablet: General-purpose computer, generally with a touch screen, that is contained in a single panel.

Smartphone: Cellular telephone with advanced capabilities for accessing the Internet, sending and receiving e-mail and performing other computer-like functions.

Source: PC Magazine

by Max Jarman The Arizona Republic Aug. 7, 2011 12:00 AM

Tablets, laptops, notebooks becoming indispensable for students

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