University High School is considering whether to adopt a 1:1 student laptop program in Fall 2006. While I was at the NECC Conference, I was reminded to consider Tablet PCs as an alternative to traditional laptop computers. They do everything a laptop can but add capabilities that are traditionally considered shortcomings of laptop computers. Tablets allow the user to quickly use a stylus to add a diagram, handwritten note, or annotation to a document, which makes notetaking possible for science and math classes, in which plenty of diagrams exist. Some users may actually prefer to take all of their notes in handwritten form, especially those who are poor typists. The devices weigh about the same as conventional laptop computers and many even boast a more impact-resistant case, always an asset in schools!
The main obstacle currently appears to be price. Tablet PCs still run about $300 more per unit than laptops. Multiply that by 400 students and you have a significant difference in the overall cost of a student laptop program. Another issue is that popular companies such as Dell (our current provider) do not make a tablet PC. Should we give up Dell’s terrific warranty and service program for tablets? It will be something to consider this year.