Consumer Tablets Failing in the Classroom?

Advancements in technology continue to provide new opportunities for the education industry. Schools and universities are turning to technology innovation in order to attract new students, cut costs by reducing textbook purchases, and improve the overall learning experience of both students and teachers through access to rich, interactive content.

The benefits of tablets are widespread and the broad range of usage capabilities is unquestioned. Tablets can come preloaded with textbooks, lessons, tests and e-books. These devices can also be set up to monitor a student’s usage patterns and time spent on learning-related activities.

However, many school districts are coming to realize that consumer-grade tablets don’t offer the security features and device management options that they need. Accessing the web for research can be invaluable, but controlling what sites are acceptable or not, especially when students are allowed to use the devices at home, can be a real issue.

Recently, the Los Angeles Unified School District began implementing the first stage of its plan to put tablets into the hands of all of its 640,000 students, the largest deployment to date. Yet within just a matter of days, several hundred high school students managed to bypass measures put in place to block them from accessing applications such as Facebook and Twitter. In response, the schools immediately banned the devices from being used at home and the school district’s police chief is recommending the board slowdown its technology rollout.

In another example, several hundred students in Indiana found ways to reprogram their tablets to download games and apps for social media sites, which were to be off limits. According to school officials the problem was attributed to their security program not being able to handle the number of devices – more than 2,000 – that were distributed.

To eliminate these types of issues, schools need to look to tablet solutions with built-in security and mobile device management (MDM) features. Tablets, such as those in the Toughpad family, provide security embedded at the hardware level along with trusted boot and root protection. School IT administrators can also utilize MDM features to secure devices from unauthorized use.

Another consideration is the device’s durability. It’s not unreasonable to assume that devices handled by students daily will experience occasional drops and just overall rough treatment. In the case of the Los Angeles school district deployment, replacement devices will be provided as part of a warranty program, but less than 1 in 10 devices will be eligible for replacement. Given the age of the user, one has to wonder if that will be sufficient.

In fact, a school district in North Carolina has recently suspended its tablet program after reports of defects. Problems with the consumer-grade tablets included a dysfunctional charger that overheated and caused plastic to melt, as well as broken screens on about 10 percent of all devices in just the first few months of deployment.

More rugged devices such as the Toughpad can easily withstand extreme drops, water, dust and freezing temperatures. This level of durability ensures longer product life and lower cost of ownership in the long run.

So while tablets can be a powerful education tool, finding solutions with the right security and management features, as well as the reliability and durability needed for students, is what’s needed for school districts to graduate to a new level of tech-enabled, interactive learning.

For more information on choosing the right tablets for your environment, download our latest whitepaper.