Tablet computers have been expanding their presence K-12 classrooms over the past few years and the pace of the expansion appears to be quickening.
The latest chapter in the rise of tablet computing in schools involves technology company Samsung, which announced a partnership with the Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that has created a free, online collection of thousands of online video lessons and exercises for educators.
The collaboration was announced in conjunction with a pilot program in three California schools in the Mountain View Whisman School District. The company will provide the schools with Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets, which will come preloaded with a free Khan Academy app developed by Samsung Media Solutions Center America, a newly formed organization within Samsung. This is the first education application created by the center.
"We think bundling a learning solution with our tablet makes the learning experience more valuable," said Jerrold Brandt of Samsung Media Solutions Center America, who worked with Khan Academy during initial discussions with Samsung.
But Samsung's announcement isn't the only tablet making waves in the education world. Apple recently announced the launch of the "iPad Mini", a smaller, cheaper version of its regular iPad. Jason Tomassini wrote about the new device, which is 25 percent thinner, 50 percent lighter, and two inches smaller in screen size than the regular-sized iPad. In July, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that iPads were outselling Macs 2 to 1 in the education market, as the company reported selling 1 million iPads and 500,000 Macs to schools last quarter, Education Week reports.
The iPad Mini starts at $329 for a Wi-Fi-enabled tablet with 16 gigabytes of memory, but can cost as much as $659 depending on the model and specifications. Other tablets competing in the school market include Barnes and Noble's 16 gigabyte tablet for $249 and Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire 2 for $159. Marketplace K-12 and Digital Education have additional analysis about tablets in the school market.
The choice of the California school district for the Samsung pilot program stems in part from Khan Academy's close relationship with the area, said District Superintendent Craig Goldman. Not only is the nonprofit based in nearby Mountain View, but founder Salman Khan also lives there with his family. The program will include the participation of nine teachers in three schools, according to the press release.
The three schools participating in the program have received the Samsung tablets with the "S-Pen," a stylus specifically for the tablet, a key feature for engaging students in the classroom, said Goldman.
The program is being funded by a Google grant of $1 million to the district for this school year, put forward to help disadvantaged students improve their performance in math. In its use of Samsung tablets in classrooms, the district plans to use Khan Academy math content, as well as an app called ST Math, an instructional math tool that can be used on the Samsung tablet.
In the district's Stevenson Elementary School, 4th and 5th grade classes of about 25 students each started using the tablets and app this month. "This is a first step for us in terms of technology," said Principal Tyler Graff, who pointed out that the school had only used desktop computers in classrooms before the pilot program was launched. Graff said the size of the tablet, with its 10.1 inch display, "works well for 4th and 5th graders."
Teachers at the school have adopted their own blended learning approach, using face-to-face instruction with a group of 10 to 15 students while the rest of the class works independently on the tablets. Graff said that the students were highly engaged when the tablets were introduced in the classroom and needed very little instruction on how to use them.
"It's just intuitive for them," he said.