Tablet solutions abound at 2013 ISTE conference

Schools can buy any number of 32-gigabyte Surface RT tablets for $199, through a special Microsoft offer that’s good through Aug. 31 or while supplies last.

Tablet-based mobile learning was a big area of focus during the 2013 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio in late June, with Microsoft making the biggest splash by giving away free Surface RT tablets to 10,000 conference participants.

The goal of Microsoft’s Windows in the Classroom Surface Experience Project was to show educators how its Windows 8 operating system—which can power both laptops and tablets—can help create engaging learning opportunities for students.

In addition, Microsoft is offering special pricing on its Surface RT tablets to schools for a limited time. Schools can buy any number of 32-gigabyte Surface RTs for $199, Microsoft said; with a Touch Keyboard Cover the devices will cost $249, and with a Type Keyboard Cover they’ll cost $289. That’s a savings of at least $300 per device.

The offer is good until Sept. 30 or while supplies last. Interested schools can contact their Microsoft Education Account Representative or visit their local Microsoft Store to place an order.

While Microsoft was making headlines with its Surface RT giveaway, other manufacturers were showcasing their own tablet devices as ideal solutions for teaching and learning.

For instance, Amplify displayed its all-in-one, tablet-based solution built specifically for education, which includes assessment, curriculum, and mobile device management (MDM) tools along with the device itself. The assessment tools help pinpoint students’ learning needs, so educators can target their instruction more effectively in real time, Amplify says—and the curriculum tools include ELA and science instruction.

Similarly, Educational Resources highlighted its LearnPad, another tablet built specifically for schools. The LearnPad includes instructional, content, and mobile device management software, as well as ten professional development courses on topics such as how to use tablets for project-based learning or to differentiate instruction. A 9.7-inch dual core version costs $300, and a 10.1-inch quad core version costs $400. Both devices run on the Android platform, but a Windows 8 version is expected next year.

AT&T announced the results of a new mobile learning model, piloted in collaboration with Samsung, Edmodo, Kno, and Connected Nation. The model aims to give schools access to a wide array of devices, mobile connectivity, and educational content options through a single provider.

The pilot tested both a shared and a one-to-one model in two high school classes. A majority of students, teachers, and parents agreed the mobile learning solution enhanced learning, AT&T said; but students using the one-to-one model reported higher satisfaction by about 10 percentage points.

MDM is a critical piece of any mobile learning program, and a few MDM providers were on hand to demonstrate their solutions at ISTE.

For instance, SOTI displayed its MobiControl for Education mobile management solution, which includes location-based policy enforcement, remote lock/wipe and password enforcement, remote control for one-to-one interaction between teachers and students, and web filtering technology.

And TabPilot Learning Systems announced the launch of TabPilot FocalPoint, a secure, locked-down web browser for Android tablets. The new browser keeps students focused and on task by locking them into certain websites, which are configured by teachers. Using a cloud-based control panel, teachers select which sites students can access. The choice is then administered wirelessly and can be applied to a single tablet or an entire group of devices.

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