What will the tablet mean for literacy teaching and learning?

Mobile learning is nothing new, but with the unveiling of the much-hyped Apple tablet which supposedly is 3G enabled, I’ve been thinking about what the implications might be for literacy teaching and learning. (Here’s a pic that insider’s say is closest to the actual product). The significance of the buzz around the Apple tablet (or iPad) is that though tablets have been around for a while, none have really picked up a lot of steam and Apple on the other hand always seems to do it right–not to mention that developers always jump on the Apple bandwagon which helps things. (Here’s a link to the rumor mill for those interested).

My professor, Chuck Kinzer, has talked about how the proliferation of mobile devices will make the educational research on multitasking obsolete. You can’t really have a bunch of windows open at the same time on your mobile device–chatting, listening to music, surfing the web–like you can with the laptop or desktop computer. With a larger screen though, likely to be 10 inches diagonally, this multitasking may be possible.

People are saying the Apple tablet will make the Kindle obsolete because the tablet will act as an e-reader. This video (which is a pitch for a particular company, but still a quick overview of the e-reading abilities of the tablet for the student user) shows a shelf of tablet-based textbooks within the tablet, the user accessing multi-media (a video lecture), study guides, and a class/study calendar.

But the tablet will be more consequential than acting simply as an e-reader. Of course, you will have apps like you do with the iPhone, and some just for the tablet. And of course there will likely be multimedia capabilites; one will be able to watch videos surely but also probably make and distribute them–expanding what we think of as reading a textbook in a traditional sense, and harnessing this idea of a participatory culture in interacting with the textbook through multimedia. So in addition to reading, students can create and share media.

The tablet precursors to the iPad have, too, featured the digital ink-enabling feature which, with a stylus, students could annotate directly on textbooks, notes, powerpoints, etc. I think in this current climate though we will see this in a more collaborative sense of annotating and drawing. Peer-editing papers comes to mind.

I’m thinking about the possibilities for social networking + tablet tech in education. Online study groups–collaborative note taking (real-time wiki style maybe ala Googlewave?) sharing notes and auxiliary materials, videoconferencing–that are potentially global. The ability to have a real community of practice in which students are in touch with experts, wherever they may reside, being real apprentices in authentic learning contexts.

And think, students tutoring, teaching each other across long-distances via shared presentations, real-time math lessons using the stylus and videoconference. They say teaching something is the best way to learn it!

I can’t fully wrap my mind around the implications of GPS/Googlemapping technology and the tablet on education, but I forsee placeblogging and Web 2.0 applications like Foursquare playing prominently in the history, geography, or social studies classroom.

So what are your thoughts? How else might such a device change education?

I’ll be looking forward to the official announcement on Wednesday. Until then, we technophiles can salivate over the mockups!

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