Tablets can be more than entertainment devices

“Tablets are for entertainment purposes, not for writing papers and doing class projects—key components of higher education ” (Michael Hanley, Ball State’s Institute for Mobile Media Research)

The quote above is from an article  shared by my colleague Britt, the main crux of this piece is that students view tablets as entertainment devices and not tools for learning. This research is based on 10 years of studying media consumption by young adults.

While I agree that tablets are great for entertainment purposes, I think they have potential beyond the entertainment factor.  Tablets are tools and like any other tool their value and effectiveness is dependent on how we imagine creative ways  to use them. Thus the way in which we conceive of them as useful or not in education depends on our own imagination.

In thinking through this I was reminded of Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model of technology integration


Substitution: technology being used as a direct replacement/substitute for what we already do with no functional change.

Augmentation: Technology is used as a substitute but with functional improvement over what you used to do without the technology.

Modification: The use of technology allows for significant task redesign

Redefinition: Technology enables what was previously not possible

How does that apply here? well students like everyone else will tend to use tools in ways that reflect previous practices. So most students according to the article use their smartphones for watching video and accessing social media. Accordingly they view tablets as serving the same purpose as their smartphones.

But can we blame students if their instructors do not model ways in which they can use their devices for educational purposes?

How can faculty leverage these devices to provide students with authentic student centered learning experiences relevant to the digital, networked age we live in?  

It starts with the question what can I do with these devices that I couldn’t do before?


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