Monday, December 29, 2014
Pick a Device, Any Device!
I am frequently asked "What about other Tablets? Chromebooks? My district just bought us tablets but they're not iPads. Can I still use them to teach my students?"
YES! While I am biased towards using Apple devices after years of using them professionally and personally, any mobile device can still help you enhance and even transform your teaching and student learning.
Not all devices are created equally though. There are pros and cons to any device- primarily their capabilities, apps available, and cost. I still encourage schools embarking on a new mobile technology journey to seriously consider adopting the iPad. The higher (sometimes) cost pays off in quality and cost of the apps available, especially for primary grades.
If you or your school has already invested in a non-Apple tablet or laptops, don't worry though! My goal for the new year is to dive into alternatives to the iDevices, and to share my learning with you!
Today I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4, 8inch version. My favorite iDevice to use is the Mini so I purchased the Galaxy Tab 4 that was similar in size and memory. The 7inch tab was cheaper but only had 8mb of internal memory! The other tablet I considered was the nabi DreamTab, but it wasn't in stock at my local store.
I had an Android smartphone before I became addicted to all things Apple, so using the device and app store was familiar to me. My kindergartner has already nabbed my new tablet so I know it will entice my students just like the iPad does. My biggest concern upon opening the box was how would it compare in quality and quantity of applications available?
So far I've located some apps I use on the iPad- mostly games, play apps, and productivity apps. I'm downloading free and lite versions for now- I'll start exploring unfamiliar paid apps after I've tapped out the freebies!
ABC Mouse has a few apps- two CVC books and their ABC Mouse learning portal app. Starfall has their family of apps available, with the Free Starfall More app offering several activities. There are play apps available by Toca Boca, My Playhome, Dr. Panda. There are lego apps as well. We especially like the Story Creator. Evernote and GoogleDrive are available to help teachers out.
My biggest disappointment in the Android tablet so far is that Flash websites don't work on it like they used to. Now, like the iPad, Flash is unavailable so some of my favorite websites won't work. So... my main reason for giving other tablets a benefit over the iPad is gone. I have a Surface computer/tablet, that does allow me to use Flash websites, but the operating system and navigation aren't as easy as regular tablets. The surface looks like a tablet but acts like a computer.
I'll be adding more information as I explore my alternatives to the iPad over the next few weeks. In the meantime here's what to look for when purchasing a mobile device:
Does it have forward and rear facing cameras? Having cameras are important for classroom use. The camera is a powerful tool for reading and math skills, vocabulary development and storytelling. Definitely make having a camera on the device a priority.
Does the device have a wide range of apps, especially open ended apps available? Some devices made for children require a subscription, or come with a handful of learning apps that are primarily skill practice. Having a variety of apps, at reasonable prices is important for classrooms. The best apps are those that allow children to create, tell stories, document and share learning.
Please let me know what tablet you're using... What are it's pros and cons? Your favorite apps?
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