The Tablet Revolution

by Alesy Iturrey | 11/21/11 11:00pm

It's that time of year again. With Black Friday coming up this week, shoppers are already thinking about holiday gifts for loved ones. I can see it now: The mall is buzzing with excitement holiday music blasting, decorations hanging from the ceiling and in the center of it all, there's a jolly old Santa in his cottage. Little children approach nervously while Santa asks them what they want for Christmas. They answer, with timid smiles on their faces, "an iPad, please."

According to a recent Nielsen survey, the most popular gifts this year for kids between ages six and 12 and teens will be iPads, with other gadgets such as iPods and computers coming in second. While these tech tools are gaining popularity because of their entertainment value, there's no doubt that technology and the internet have greatly influenced this generation's educational experiences as well.

With technology growing at this seemingly exponential rate, many observers are left asking, "What's next?" The Nielsen survey proves that the era of the tablet is here. Before you sigh, lament the end of simpler times and fear the beginning of a world lost in technology, I suggest you consider the positive aspects of this technological advancement. The influence of these developments includes more than entertainment and video games. Tablets should become tools of educational value and interpersonal connections.

The iPad not only offers a touch-screen, access to the internet and various applications to enhance utility, it provides on-screen versions of literary classics similar to e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle. And more recently, "app stores" have featured entire textbooks available for student purchase.

Companies are currently working on taking an idea that is not entirely unique the digital book and modifying user experience in order to increase educational worth. They incorporate videos and quizzes to strengthen reader comprehension and allow students to collaborate with others in order to discuss and reinforce the understanding of key concepts.

Our generation is one that is highly criticized for our constant dependence on items displayed on computer screens and on the World Wide Web. Social media outlets dominate the way individuals receive and process information. And although there are definite downsides to our affinity for this technology frivolous, distracting games and the trading of human connections for artificial friendships online I stand with those who believe that the internet is bringing the world together.

These individuals, termed Generation Y by the media, are those who are never satisfied with the status quo and yearn to learn "what's next." The consumer in this society wants to buy the latest product. The innovator wants to create a brighter solution. The enterpriser wants to implement new ideas for cultural advancement. And this is all born from an initial youthful desire to become familiar with technology.

The next big thing in technology is no doubt the tablet it enhances the learning experience for college students by making them better equipped for social collaboration. The desire for young children requesting the ownership of such technology seems backwards kids at the age of six do not actually want the iPad because they will be able to complete their homework on it. But perhaps we should encourage the increasing popularity of these products in order to inspire children to become actively involved with their own educational advancement.

This does not end with children, but should continue in higher education institutions such as our own. Colleges and universities should institute programs for students to become more familiar with educational technologies such as the iPad. A tablet would be useful for the prudent college student, replacing expensive and burdensome textbooks and solving both budget and back problems. Perhaps the next step we should take in education reform is to provide this technology to students in an everyday classroom environment.

By promoting hands-on involvement and communication through technology, we can encourage future generations to create new ideas and heighten expectations for our ever-shrinking world. If it begins with a holiday gift this year, then so be it.