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How to make the most of your tablet

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Tablets aren’t cheap, but they definitely are one of the best investments you can make during your time as a student. (read our previous post on buying a tablet and using it for learning)

However, simply buying a tablet and expecting wonders is not enough. You’ll need to make some adjustments to the way you learn to be able to take maximum advantage of your investment.

Specifically, you need to actually integrate your tablet with your learning experience: leave your notepad at home, get all of your class notes digitally and start buying your books in e-book format. It will be difficult at first, and you may question whether it’s all worth it in the end, but once you’ve adapted your workflow to the tablet, you’ll reap the benefits tenfold.

Furthermore, you need to get the best apps for the job. Like computers can run software like Microsoft Word, tablets also have small software packages called “apps”. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available for both iOS and Android – each of these apps performs specific functions and works well in specific contexts. Most apps are cheap (costing below $5 or R50) and can drastically boost your productivity.

For a list of useful iOS apps for students, take a look at this blog article. And for Android, check out this round-up.

TIP: For a guide to buying apps, check out this article for iOS and this one for Android.

Can a tablet replace a computer?

If cost is a big concern for you and you have to choose between a desktop computer/laptop or a tablet, you’ll probably be wondering whether the latter can fully replace the former.

The short answer – at least at the moment – is NO. iPads and Galaxy Tabs (as well other Android devices) are extremely useful and will be able to accomplish mosteveryday tasks that students need to perform, e.g. browsing the web, reading e-mail, accessing a learning management system (e.g. SUNLearn), making notes, etc.

You can even write essays and reports on a tablet (although, for such heavy-duty typing, you’ll probably need to buy an external keyboard as well). However, you won’t be able to run the same software that you can run on a PC or Mac, because the software platforms are different. In other words: if your course requires of you to use specialised software (like a programming IDE or CAD design software), you’ll probably not be able to get away with only a tablet.

While it’s definitely true that a tablet works best if you have a computer/laptop as well, if you have to choose between the two, bear in mind that you can always use the University’s computer centres (e.g. HUMARGA or FIRGA) for specialised software or heavy-duty typing. This might be a good way to avoid having to choose between buying a computer/laptop or a tablet.

Lastly, it should be noted that some Windows-based tablets (e.g. the Microsoft Surface Pro) actually run the same Windows platform that you’ll find on a computer. Technically, then, these tablets are fully-fledged computers in a tablet form and therefore can replace a desktop computer/laptop completely. However, these tablets are expensive and have not been particularly popular, which should make you think twice before buying one.


Using a tablet for smarter learning (part 1)

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Since tablets became mainstream in 2010, more and more students have started relying on these nifty gadgets to take their learning experience to the next level.

However, many students still are unaware or unconvinced of the advantages of tablet-based learning. In the following section, we’ll look at why exactly a tablet is a fantastic investment.

Why a tablet?

In short, there are four reasons:

1. The most obvious advantage of a tablet is the level of mobility it offers. As a student, you’ll most probably carry around at least a notepad, your prescribed books and your class notes. And, for many, a calculator, dictionary and diary/calendar are also indispensable. Carrying these items around all day long can quickly become a back-breaking burden – which is why most students simply leave their heavy books at home.

With a tablet, though, you can have all of these resources compacted into the size of an A5 notepad. No more forgetting books or notes at home – everything you need is but a few finger taps away. This is a killer feature in itself.

2. However, the true academic value of a tablet becomes evident when one looks at its potential as an in-class companion. Not only does a tablet keep everything you need at hand, it also allows you to manipulate these resources in useful ways. For example, you can add bookmarks, highlights and notes to your prescribed books and class notes while the lecturer is discussing them. You can also efficiently create rich notes of your own.

You’ll be able to combine typing and drawing on the screen to capture, for example, key points in a class discussion or diagrams and charts drawn by the lecturer. You’ll be able to neatly organise these notes in subject folders for future reference.

The biggest killer feature of a tablet in class, however, is the fact that it allows you to record what is said in class so that you can listen to these recordings while preparing for an exam. While it’s not practical to record every second of every class (because –let’s be honest –you’ll never listen to all of that again), this feature is extremely handy to record important bits of a lecturer’s explanation or a class discussion.

Lastly, a tablet also gives you quick access to handy reference material. Need to quickly look up a word’s definition or do a calculation? A tablet lets you do both at lightning speed, which means that you won’t lose track of the train of thought in class.

3. Tablets don’t only shine inside the classroom. Any student who’s had to scour stacks and stacks of paper notes to review specific content before an exam will testify to how frustrating, tedious and time-wasting this can be.

Having all of your own notes –and the slideshows or hand-outs provided by the lecturer –neatly organised on a single device, where it’s accessible with a few taps of the finger, eliminates the hassles of paper-based exam preparation and gives you more time to actually study.

4. An often-missed advantage of tablet-based learning is the fact that e-book versions of prescribed books and textbooks are usually cheaper than their print counterparts. While many books are not yet available in digital format, the savings on those that are can quickly compound to a substantial amount.

And, of course, using an e-book offers all of the advantages of digital learning, including such timesavers as being able to search for words and phrases, jump to specific pages and chapters, add multi-coloured highlights and make digital annotations.

Next time : Buying a tablet: The choices


Do you need a tablet?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

If you’re always on the go, but would still like to keep in touch with what’s going on in the world and with friends and family, a tablet could be your solution. This device is easy to use and so light you can take it with you wherever you go – whether you’re travelling to Arniston or Abu Dhabi.

One of a tablet’s biggest advantages is it’s touch screen interface which makes it very accessible and easy to use. Due to the lack of keyboard the device is much lighter and thinner than your normal laptop.

What can I use it for?

It’s really up to you what you want to use a table for, but keep in mind that it’s main purpose is entertainment. In other words, internet browsing, e-mail, playing games, watching videos, social networking, e-books and videos.

That being said, the tablet is a convenient communication tool and can therefore also be used for work purposes. With this nifty mobile device you have your e-mail wherever you go and you’ll be able to create and edit documents, download applications, create presentations and edit spreadsheets.

Just keep in mind, a tablet can’t replace your pc or laptop. They have slower processors, less memory and smaller storage capacity. If you use programmes for video or graphic editing that typically need strong processors, rather stick to your laptop.

Which one?

The market for tablets is expanding by the minute with new products and upgrades. Each one offers something different, but before you make a choice, decide what your IT needs are. If you want to compare a few of the available options, you can find more information here.

More on tablets on Wikipedia.


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