Tablets in schools double in one year
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.
According to research released by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the US tablet market in schools soared by 103 per cent in 2011-12, with even greater growth expected in the years to come.
The figures mirror a similar increase in England, with a report published 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 drop 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 considerably more likely to be reached.
Miles Berry, subject leader for computing education at the University of Roehampton and board member of UK information and communications technology (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," Mr Berry 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 both 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.
According to the BESA, 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 rapidly increasing number of educational apps available.
A report on tablets in schools published by the BESA last month predicts that 40 per cent of "ICT learning time" will be covered by educational apps by 2020.
By that time, the report adds, 1.8 million tablets will be in use in England's schools. The organisation is expecting 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."
Amplify, the education arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, is marketing a tablet to schools in the US - costing about $299 (pound;190) - and has recently signed a deal in North Carolina to supply 20,000 tablets. They come preloaded with content for students, including the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Justin Hamilton, senior vice-president of corporate communications at Amplify, said that the company plans to develop content and educational games that will be as compelling as games on the Xbox and PlayStation.
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