Tablets in schools double within one year

Boom in affordable computers in US and UK classrooms

Richard Vaughan

Schools are contributing to the upswing in the sales of tablet computers, with their numbers in classrooms more than doubling in the UK and US in the past year, figures reveal.

Research by the International Data Corporation shows that the US tablet market in schools soared by 103 per cent in 2011-12, with higher growth expected in the years to come.

The figures mirror a similar rise in England, with a report by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) last month showing that the number of tablets in England's schools is expected to reach 260,000 by the end of this year, up from 100,000 in 2012. The group has predicted that nearly a third of all students will have access to a tablet by 2020.

Experts believe the rise in tablets' popularity will lead to a fall in prices for schools as the likes of Apple and Google compete for a bigger share of the education market. Introducing tablets has made the goal of giving every child access to technology and the internet much more likely to be reached.

Miles Berry, subject leader for computing education at the University of Roehampton and board member of the ICT subject association Naace, said that one-to-one deployment of technology in schools had been the "holy grail" until now.

"They (tablets) make getting technology into the hands of every child a real possibility," he said. "Unlike laptops, they are more intuitive. Plus, they tend to be cheaper. They are also good for more collaborative work."

But Mr Berry warned that tablets are not best suited to coding and wider computing work, which the UK and US governments are moving towards. England's education secretary Michael Gove recently made changes to the curriculum by introducing computer science at GCSE and adding it to the list of subjects for the English Baccalaureate exam performance measure.

The BESA says teachers are increasingly seeing the benefits of tablets that enable students to create and consume content, thanks to inbuilt video and cameras as well as the increasing number of educational apps available.

The BESA report predicts that 40 per cent of "ICT learning time" will be covered by educational apps by 2020. By then, it says, 1.8 million tablets will be in use in England's schools. The organisation expects there to be 260,000 in schools by the end of this year and 600,000 by 2015.

In the US, however, there has been an even greater move towards using tablets, with 2.6 million of the devices in state-funded schools in 2012, up from 1.28 million in 2011.

Analysts at the IDC have put the huge increase in tablet sales down to the relatively low cost of the devices, and the mounting pressure on school officials to go digital.

"While tablet sales to the education sector doubled from 2011 to 2012, we are only seeing the beginning of a much greater push that is likely to last for years," said David Daoud, personal computers research director at IDC. "As a result, we remain highly optimistic about sustained tablet growth in education."

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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