Are Tablets and E-Readers Now Educational Requirements?

I read a very informative blog post today, “Tablets and E-Readers in Education”. The post discusses a recent Pearson Foundation Survey on Students and Tablets.  The survey is a real eye-opener. USA college and university students and high school students soon to enter college or university were questioned on the use of tablets such as the iPad. While the numbers of surveyed students who actually own tablets is low, 73% of those who do own tablets prefer digital format over print for reading textbooks. And 86% of all in the survey believe that tablets help students to study more efficiently. While it has been clear that the number of ebook sales of novels on Amazon is outstripping the sales of paper novels, there has not been much data regarding educational ebooks and e-textbooks.  It is worth knowing that Pearson has launched an e-textbook  initiative aimed at the iPad, entitled Inkling, and therefore has a special interest in looking for evidence of pro-e-textbook attitudes amongst students.

It is also eye-opening that the author of the blog post states that the use of an e-reader is now required in his college course. I recall an event reported this past July, in which a Chinese professor Weibo-messaged his students to basically say, ‘Get an iPad or get out of my class.’ It was no surprise that this demand attracted a huge amount of controversy, especially because the iPad is not a cheap item, and students everywhere struggle to afford one.

Inkling Textbook on iPad. Photo courtesy of mikecogh on Flickr

In our DUCKLING project, which ran from October 2008 through October 2010, we loaded several modules’ worth of learning material onto Sony e-readers and posted them out to masters-level distance students, for use in Occupational Psychology and TESOL-Linguistics courses. Students reported they found the e-readers a very convenient way to manage course readings, and enabled them to make use of any spare time during the day to continue with their readings. Some commented that they found the inability to take notes on the e-reader a hindrance, although a subset of these later concluded that they did not miss the lack of note-taking capability. This last comment brings me back to the the”Tablets and E-Readers in Education” article, which notes a useful iPad app for textbooks, ‘Kno’ which apparently facilitates note-taking. I will have to try Kno, maybe in time for our next University of Leicester Tablet Users’ Group meeting.

Terese Bird

Learning Technologist and SCORE Fellow

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