Samsung Electronics has made available the new Galaxy Tab 4 Education for the 2014-2015 school year. The features that make this tablet useful for students are cloud-based tools, and teachers/administrators are looking closely at the ease of networking and a reasonable price tag:
- Specific design to support scalable 1:1 computing initiatives in K-12
- Integration with Google Play for Education ( a Web-based management console)
- More interactive and effective learning environment
- Access to learning resources
- Compatible with Samsung School (software that allows interaction between a teacher's tablet and students', or other hardware) $30 per device
- WiFi support
- 16GB memory
- MSRP $369.99
"It used to be that a single textbook would guide a classroom's learning for the year," Jen Langan, director of mobility product marketing for Samsung, told eWEEK. "Now, teachers have a lot more tools and choices. Maybe today there's an app the class works with, maybe tomorrow it's a manipulative and, the day after that, a chapter in an online book. It starts to fundamentally change how people teach."
Another teacher-friendly feature is that the tablets can be provisioned and will have downloaded the day's assignment. The tablet can also integrate with a large screen, which enables the teacher to put the solution steps of an equation on the screen, so that the entire classroom can see the equation being solved. Teachers also will have a view of each student's tablet and can catch problems or mistakes in real time.
In an effort to keep the price of the tablet down, Samsung decided to make some accessories optional. However, the stylus, rubber stand, and a plug-in keyboard can be obtained from a third-party vendor. Since Samsung has supplied some schools with Chromebooks, it is making the Chromebooks as similar to the new tablets as possible to make combining the two in a classroom easy for educators.
"Last year was a banner year for us in education," said Langan. "We went from practically no market share to being number two, all due to Chromebooks. And while a $250 price point is really compelling, it's our [new] Web console capabilities that is really the secret sauce."
When well done, the addition of tablets, laptops, and net-books can transform a classroom, says Kelsey Sheehy, reporting for the U.S. News. But she believes there are five important questions that need to be asked by parents before adding more individual student technology.
1. Why is the school adding individual devices? Hans Mundahi, director of technology integration at a private school in New Hampshire says that there are many reasons why schools decide to add individual devices to their tech program, but the only valid reason is that the program will will improve teaching and learning.
2. What training will educators receive? Teachers need to know how to operate the devices, but more importantly they should know how to use it to enhance their students' creativity, problem-solving skills, improve their own student assessment, provide fast feed-back, and individually tailor lessons.
3. Will there be a pilot program? The school needs an overall plan that includes a mission for the use of the individual devices which will be tested in small pilot programs. Small steps allow the program to be tweaked little by little, and can have the devices slowly phased into the curriculum after the students and teachers have mastered them.
4. What about security? Filters and controls should be be integrated in such a way that they protect the students, but do not obstruct students' learning. Parents should ask questions about the technology, such as, how it will be used and what apps and software will be used.
5. How will students use the tech device? According to Doreen Barnes, technology integration coordinator at Forest hills Public School, Michigan:
"Giving a student a device with no purpose does not create higher achievement or engagement," Barnes says. âGiving students technology to create, collaborate or solve problems, she says, is what equates to learning."