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Are Tablets Mobile Learning Devices

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Thu Apr 05 2012

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Are Tablets Mobile Learning Devices?

There’s a lot of talk about mobile learning these days, and for good reason. According to a recent Nielsen report, smart phones now make up 50% of the mobile market in the United States. Organizations and learning professionals are scrambling to figure out what do to with learners and employees who are permanently connected.

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But that’s not the discussion I’m interested in. I want to look at how we, as an industry, define a mobile device in the context of learning. Currently, when most people think mobile learning, they think smart phones.  But few can contest that tablets are becoming more mainstream every day. But are tablets being used for business? Mounting evidence finds that they are. A recent AT&T Small Business Technology Poll reported that even though the tablet market is not yet two years old, tablet use by small businesses was already at 67%. Likewise, the March 2012 Small Business Authority SB Authority Market Sentiment Survey reports in Forbes that 55% of business owners see themselves using a tablet in the future, and 45% plan on a new tablet being their next technology purchase.

Certainly, tablets are not as ubiquitous as mobile phones. But should they be part of the conversation about mobile learning? At ASTD, we think they should.  

While tablets can’t fit in your pocket, they’re portable enough to stay with you at all times. And The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that higher ed is enthusiastic about tablet computers, hoping the release of lightweight and affordable devices such as the Kindle Fire will work better in certain settings than do laptops. Added into the mix are slimmed down laptops like the Macbook Air and the new fleet of so-called Ultrabooks, which make complicate this debate even more as they’re nearly as portable as tablets. The line is indeed blurring.

So, what constitutes a mobile learning device for you? Does it need to fit in your pocket and be with you at all times like your mobile phone does? Or do you consider tablets in that category as well?

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