Virginia Beach City Public Schools recently announced a new “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy for 2012-2013, allowing students to bring electronic devices to school for academic purposes. Mobile devices can increase student engagement and motivation, offering access to online class materials and the ability to collaborate as well as to conduct research. (See what students and teachers are saying about BYOD in this video
Whether you're motivated by the new BYOD policy to buy a gadget for your child for school, or you've been in the market for a tablet or e-reader for your family and just aren't sure where to begin, this overview may help.
Regardless of what device you purchase, you have some choices to make which will determine the price you’ll pay. There are usually several choices for storage capacity (8, 16, 32, 64 GB) and Internet access (WiFi, 3G/4G), so take some time to consider the ways in which you or your child will be using the device before purchasing one. For example, you could probably skip mobile broadband (3G or 4G with a monthly fee!) if you don’t want or need Internet access 24/7, on-the-go and you can rely on available wireless networks. If your child uses a lot of streaming video or e-books for class, you may want more storage capacity.
Most tablets come with a web browser, music/video players, cameras and email/calendar apps. There are also many e-reading apps, including Kindle and Nook, that can be downloaded to access e-books. A tablet’s battery life varies from device to device but can last days depending on usage. Options include:
• Kindle Fire (~$199 - $500) - Amazon announced several new flavors of the Kindle Fire in September 2012, including the Kindle Fire HD in either a 7” or 8.9” model. It uses a modified version of Google’s Android operating system and its own web browser, but it still has an extensive collection of apps available. It integrates heavily into Amazon’s services, including streaming video and Kindle books.
• Apple iPad (~ $500 - $800) – Apple’s tablet comes in a 10” model, although expect a smaller model to be announced in October. Being the first tablet means it has the largest collection of apps available, and while not technically compatible with Windows PCs there are a few apps available that allow for editing of Microsoft Office documents.
• Apple iPod Touch (~ $250) – some consider this device to be an iPhone without the phone capabilities. It’s obviously smaller and easily fits into pockets and backpacks.
• Nook Tablet (~$199-$299) – Barnes & Noble recently announced new 7" and 9" HD models with several new features, including a new email app, parental controls, and options for multiple user logins. This means several members of your family can keep their stuff separate and customized similar to options on PCs. These devices use a modified Android operating system, are very light, have fast processing power, and are higher resolution than their competitors.
• Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (~ $500) –This tablet comes in either a 7” or 10.1” model. It runs on Google’s Android operating system, and an extensive array of apps can be found in the Google Play Store.
• Google Nexus 7 (~ $240) – As the name implies, the Nexus 7 has a 7” display. Because it comes from Google it uses the Android operating system and Google Play store. It became available during summer 2012 and has received good reviews.
E-readers are devices dedicated to reading e-books. Most have multi-touch screens,
e-ink technology (no glare!), and support wireless downloads of e-books from their respective company’s e-books store and your local library (Kindle only). Battery life is generally good with e-readers and can extend up to a month or more depending on usage.
• Kindle ($69) –Amazon announced a price-drop in September to $69 and new parental controls.
• Kindle Paperwhite (~ $119 - $179) – Amazon announced this new device in September. It’s a 6.7” device that features “front-lit” display for easy reading under the covers at night.
• Nook Simple Touch (~ $99 - $139) - This e-reader is 6” weighing 7 ounces, and the GlowLight model was the first device to sport a front-lit display for reading in the dark.
To learn more about these devices’ features and specifications, access the companies’ websites or find useful reviews at CNET.com