Tablets gain prominence on campus, in classrooms

Although tablet computers have been around since the mid-1990s, it was the 2010 release of Apple’s iPad that made them common. Since then, the market has exploded, with tablet computers becoming available in many sizes, prices and operating systems. Apple’s iPad is the market leader, but there are also Windows and Android tablets available for sale in a wide price range, as well as some custom OS tablets such as the BlackBerry Playbook.

According to Mark Fugate, director of information technology at Maryville College, there are more tablets in use on campus this year, mostly by students rather than teachers due to the lack of technology that helps integrate the tablets into the classroom. However, Fugate believes this will change as tablets become more common, stating that “the tablets are here to stay.”

Fugate cautions against using a tablet as a replacement for a laptop or desktop, citing several instances where those who have done this find a tablet inadequate for their needs.

“It would make a good companion device to a laptop or desktop, but not good as a main computing device in a higher education setting where they have a lot of schoolwork to do,” Fugate said. Fugate also advises anyone who is thinking of buying a tablet to go to a store and get their hands on a display model first, to get a good idea of what it is capable of, and how comfortable it is to use.

With the variety of tablets available, this is a better alternative to buying blind and buyer’s remorse. For those wishing to buy a tablet, the selection can seem daunting. The iPad is a pricier option than the other tablets, starting at $499 for the base model, which can then have greater storage space and 4G LTE connectivity added, for a higher price. The iPad also integrates smoothly with the suite of Apple products available.

The Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD are both less-expensive choices, with both starting at $199. These tablets still pack a punch with generous storage capacity, long battery life, excellent media selection and Wi-Fi capability. Additionally, all three devices boast cloud storage available through their respective companies. Students and faculty who own tablets are both responding positively to them.

Tina Watts, a student as Mc, owns a Kindle Fire HD and loves its portability and the access to various types of media. She finds herself using it in classes, and enjoys being able to charge it easily at the new charging pods available on campus. Watts also said that she liked the fact that she was able to purchase several of her schoolbooks on the Kindle Fire, and that the Wi-Fi was impressively fast.

Dr. Doug Sofer, associate professor of, owns an iPad, and responds positively to its capabilities. He was able to use the multimediasyncing factor of iTunes to still show his class a documentary while he was away at a conference. However, Sofer still prefers to use his Macbook Pro in the classroom, due to the limitations of the tablet operating system in comparison to the current Apple computer operating system, and due to the lack of a physical keyboard.

Sofer also said that he would use the iPad in the classroom more often if the software was there, but that the laptop would remain more useful due to design. According to Sofer, optimizing the iPad for use in a classroom would likely disrupt many of the features that make it useful now.

“The convenience and immediate usability of the iPad is what makes it useful to me,” Sofer said. “If it were a full-blown computer with a modern operating system (whether Mac OS, Windows or even something like Ubuntu Linux), it would take a long time to start up, which would likely defeat the purpose of having an iPad in the first place.”

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