The form factor of the tablet has been shown to be beneficial in an educational context. The larger screen and ergonomic design allow the device to be both portable and functional for a variety of tasks. Reading and writing tasks were performed extensively on the iPad and the large screen size was an important factor. In comparison with a Smartphone the larger screen makes it easier to read, improves usability and functionality for a number of tasks, such as email, marking, mathematics, writing and often extends functionality by providing a richer and more fully featured interface to allow more complex and intricate tasks.
The feedback from participants shows that the device will not replace their laptop/desktop. This fits the current trend in post PC computing, where tablets do not replace other devices, instead users add technology, so that they are interacting with multiple devices. The limitations of the device also impact on this decision as they are not as full featured as a standard PC:
- sacrifice features to be more portable and provide longer battery times
- ability to write essays is impacted as well by the lack of a physical keyboard
- lack of like-for-like software equivalents
- lack of a visible file system
However, the mobility of the iPad has complemented many teaching and learning processes and become an important tool to create, reference, research and communicate across locations and environments. It fits seamlessly into their current practice and in many cases improves their ability to connect and perform. It provides them with a form factor where they feel comfortable to read, which is one of the many complaints of PCs and the increasing move online. The tablet provides an interesting platform in the education sector, as it bridges the personal Smartphone and the work-oriented PC. Its role can be seen as additive, as it does not reduce functionality or purpose from these two universal devices, but adds a new dimension. As an interactive and media-rich consumption device through to an all purpose portable creation tool, the tablet has created a new niche for technology, one that embodies the potential for a better connected and authentic learning environment.