You are here


With over 200,000 applications available for Apple’s iPad and thousands more for Android devices, educators and students must sift through a lot of apps to find effective learning tools. An app is software that allows users to perform specific tasks on a mobile device.

The increasing number, affordability and practicality of apps, such as iBooks Author, is beginning to drive the choice of hardware devices for both schools and mainstream users, says Gail Palumbo, lead faculty and area chair for curriculum, instruction and teacher leadership for the University of Phoenix. “People are demanding more powerful apps that no longer work on older computers or even many newer ones,” she says.

Sixth-graders from the Wayland-Cohocton Middle School in New York train on Toshiba tablets, which the school won in a 2010 Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes.

Tablets have come a long way since Apple launched its pioneering Newton MessagePad in 1993, the first Internet-connected flat-screen device pairing a stylus with handwriting-recognition software. Since then, computer hardware companies have been refining and experimenting with the concept of Internet-connected tablet computing devices. The personal digital assistant (PDA), convertible laptop/tablets, dual-screen booklet tablets, e-book readers and other designs have been among the many iterations of tablet computers, sometimes known as slates or media tablets.

Erez Pikar

This spring, CDI will roll out the first tablet designed specifically for the educational market. The company expects the 10-inch Android-based Unobook to one day be in the hands of every student in North America. Erez Pikar, COO of CDI, talks about how the company developed the Unobook. 

When did you start to think about developing an education-based tablet?

I’m not a Luddite, or even a technophobe. I just don’t have time to waste on technology that promises the world but fails to deliver. I’m the “show me” administrator, the doubting Thomas of school leaders. I write not about the latest and greatest technology for those administrators on the avant garde. Rather, this is a cautionary tale about letting the digital cognoscenti dash ahead to pastures new while we figure out how tried and tested technology can help us now.

Lee County Public Schools in Fort Myers, Fla., performed a full migration of its data center, complete with new storage solutions, more than three years ago. With a $500,000 budget for the conversion—one-third of what surrounding districts had spent for similar initiatives—Lee County couldn’t afford bells and whistles.


In Central Alabama at the junction of the coastal plains and the Piedmont Plateau, lies the swiftly growing, geographically diverse city of Auburn. Auburn boasts a nationally recognized school system that's as much a draw as the unique terrain and the anchoring presence of historic Auburn University.

In 2008 for the first time, laptops outsold desktops. In 2010 for the first time, smartphones outsold laptops.

While tablet computers like the iPad get more attention, eBook readers—comparatively simpler devices designed specifically for reading electronic versions of books, magazines and newspapers—are currently selling in greater numbers and at a faster rate than tablets. E-book readers also hold much appeal for education, and for the same reasons they are increasing in popularity with consumers: ever-improving features and growing capabilities for displaying a variety of content, for a fraction of the price of most full-featured tablet PCs.