Do Tablets Beat Laptops for Technology in the Classroom?

Sales figures don't lie. And based on sales figures for schools, the tablet is king. During its last earnings call, Apple's Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook announced that while the company sold 500,000 MacBook laptops to elementary and secondary academic institutions over the previous quarter, it sold nearly twice as many iPads to schools and colleges around the country. This means that on top of outselling laptops by a margin of 2:1, the sales of iPads to the education sector also saw a year-to-year increase of 100%.

"Education tends to be a conservative institution, but we're not seeing that at all on the iPad," Apple CEO Tim Cook said on a call with investors. "The adoption of the iPad in education is something I've never seen in any technology."

Apple isn't the only company that is cashing in on the popularity of tablets in the classroom. Only a day before the Apple's earnings call, News Corporation announced a partnership with AT&T to provide tablet-based learning products to school districts around the country. The venture will be headed by former chancellor of the New York City Public Schools Joel Klein. A pilot program to provide Wi-Fi and 4G equipped tablets to schools in selected states is set to begin this academic year.

"It is our aim to amplify the power of digital innovation to transform teaching and learning and to help schools deliver fundamentally better experiences and results," Klein said in a press release.

Michael Singleton, the head of the social studies department in Orlando Science School, a charter school in Orlando, Florida, says that the growth in tablet availability and the affordability and portability of the devices means that many schools are looking at ways to integrate them into the classroom to offer students more tools to get them ready for college. Singleton predicts that tablets will eventually become as common in students' backpacks as pencils and notebooks.

"I would say an iPad will one day be the same as a book bag or a ruler or a pencil," Singleton notes. "I think that the iPad will be an essential component to schools, [and] it's certainly something we can't ignore as a school—we need to embrace it."

Orlando Science School students will be issued their own iPads for use at school and at home starting this fall. The new toys will come with new rules, though: students can keep using the iPads as long as they maintain a certain GPA. How high the GPA must be hasn't been determined yet, but once it is, those students that fall below the threshold will lose the use of the tablet until their GPA goes up.

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