Tablets In Public Schools

                Every fifth-grader at Barron Park Elementary School in Palo Alto has an iPad—and it’s not because their parents plunked down $499 apiece to buy them.

The students in Barron Park’s two fifth-grade classes are part of a pilot program that began this fall, supported by funds from a local tax measure. They use the tablet computers for solving math problems and making videos on field trips, checking the devices out each morning and returning them to their teachers at the end of the day. Soon, they’ll be allowed to take the gadgets home.

Educational technology teacher Smita Kolhatkar believes the tablets help students with lessons, improve memory and language skills, and cause them to act more independently. “It’s simply amazing to see the level of engagement and excitement with the children,” she says.

The excitement among tablet makers is almost as great. Research firm IDC says global shipments of tablets will reach 177 million this year, and 11 million of them were purchased by businesses or government agencies rather than consumers. Of those, IDC analyst Tom Mainelli says, the “vast majority” were sold to schools.

Mainelli thinks that within a few years all U.S. students will have some access to a tablet at school. With 55 million students in the country’s elementary and secondary schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, that’s a lot of potential sales. And it’s not just a one-time product push: beyond selling tablets to schools and districts, tablet makers see a chance to set up future sales by establishing brand loyalty with young users.

“All these guys see huge opportunities here,” Mainelli says.....

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