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Should You Get Your Child an iPad or Laptop for School?

Although some kids may have their sights set on an ultra-trendy tablet device, tech experts are in agreement that a laptop is the way to go for students of all ages.

“Digital media tablets are more useful resources for consuming media such as looking at videos, pictures and accessing websites,” says Scott Campbell, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan. “Because laptops have built-in keyboards that provide so much more functionality in writing and platform provides a lot more flexibility with creating, it’s a superior product for students right now.”

Although external keyboards can be used with tablets, usability is still not the same, Campbell argues. Meanwhile, tech analyst Jeff Orr at ABI Research says the purchasing trends reflect this sentiment and parents are not buying tablets to help their children with school work.

“Tablets are still being purchased as a companion device for the PC and are being shared in households,” Orr says. “Parents are buying smartphones and tablets for themselves and then giving them to their children to play educational games with or keep them calm before dinner. There’s no doubt that we will see the growth of tablets in the future in education, but it will still take time and more evolution from manufacturers.”

During a recent study at the University of Washington, students were given Kindle e-readers with coursework provided digitally. But the study found that it changed research and study habits, with many abandoning the use of the Kindle due to the difficulty of going back and forth between documents.

“Just like some people at work have more than one monitor to better access documents and stay organized, this is something that tablet devices lack right now,” Orr says.

However, education systems are indeed incorporating tablets into curriculums to help with learning. In fact,Apple announced during a recent earnings call that one million iPad 2 devices were sold to the U.S. educational market, and interest in K-12 was especially strong.

According to Rebecca Levey, co-founder of kids reviews site KidzVuz and social media editor at Mom Blog Magazine, parents are still opting for laptops over tablets not only because of functionality but also because it instills vital skills needed for the workplace in the future.

“It’s important to teach kids how to use programs such as Microsoft Word, Photoshop and other tools, and laptops are significantly better platforms to do so,” Levey says.

She added that parents are typically starting to give kids smartphones and other tech devices between the ages of 8 and 12. “Sixth grade is when technology generally starts to begin in the classroom and when kids are expected to have their own device,” she explains.

Although this may change in time with new devices such as the Microsoft Surface tablet, which features a built-in keyboard, laptops remain top of mind for students as of now. And although tablets tend to be a lot less heavy to carry than laptops, more parents are discovering lighter alternatives.

“You don’t want your children to have to carry around something that is too heavy or too big for a backpack,” she says. “But as the price drops for super-light laptops (such as Ultrabooks) and the cost remains the same for iPads, it makes it even easier for functionality to win out.”

Mashable.com

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