It is amazing to me how far technology has come, especially in the classroom. In fact, in some school districts across the country tablets or laptop computers are being assigned to the students in lieu of textbooks. But no matter what the classroom environment, or how great the class course, handing a young person a tablet in school requires some type of control. Without such control, adults realize that young people — especially teens — have a penchant to want to use a tablet for other things, such as surfing the Internet, answering emails, fraternizing on social networks, playing games, and other non-educational tasks. In addition, teens with technological ingenuity would be able to quickly change settings, access the camera, and install applications of their choosing. Unfortunately, even minor changes could result in rendering the tablet unusable by other students who may be sharing the unit or to teachers who may need to access files in order to grade a student’s work.
When considering which tablet to provide for a student, it should be noted that Android-powered tablet systems have a large price advantage over their Apple iPad counterparts. This means that, while I will not argue the merits of whether iOS or Android is “better,” I believe that Android tablets are more cost-effective for cash-strapped schools. Another advantage to Android devices is that they will allow the school or parent to download third-party software, whereas Apple prohibits such downloads, thus eliminating the opportunity to add student monitoring software. In contrast, however, Android can have a different GUI applied and basically be customized or changed to meet specific needs or requirements.
One of the newer more powerful Android-powered tablets that I would recommend is the Nexus 7, which comes pre-installed with the latest Android Jelly Bean operating system. Here again, the price is right, with the Nexus 7 retailing at just $200 and sporting specifications that make it superior to most tablets currently on the market. In addition, the Nexus 7’s Jelly Bean OS has eliminated many of the hiccups that previous Android versions experienced. Given these features alone, I think that this tablet’s ability to be customized to the needs of individual classrooms makes it an ideal candidate for use in schools.
However, like every great idea, there are hurdles that have to be overcome. One such hurdle: How is one teacher going to monitor Internet surfing by 30 or more students? Well, after scouring the Internet, I located a new software company that enables teachers to successfully do just that.
This program, currently under beta testing, is called TabPilot. It is designed to prevent students from altering pre-assigned parameters that are set by the school or classroom instructor. In addition, this software will allow the teacher to limit the number of applications that any individual student can install on the unit and deny access to any applications that are non-instructional. For protection purposes, the developers have even included an area where the teachers can limit or prevent access to certain Internet sites. This feature, protected by a password, can be be changed by the teacher or other authorized school officials to grant full Internet access for older students.
TabPilot works through the cloud and teachers gain access to the application through a Web browser called the TabPilot Control Tower. Within this tower, a teacher can configure the tablets and applications that a student is allowed to use.
To me, the combination of an Android tablet along with the TabPilot software sounds like a great compromise to the present cost of supplying printed books to students. The tablet systems can also be totally locked and can only be opened during periods that class is in session and only if the teacher chooses to do so.
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Preoccupations