A few weeks ago, Google announced a new addition to its technology suite: Google Play. Built as a competitor to iTunes and Amazon, Google Play is a veritable megaplex of content for the online shopper. Books, music, movies and apps are all available for purchase and download. Like Apple and Amazon does with their tablet owners, Google Play is providing a one-stop shopping experience for users who own Android devices.
While Google Play was designed to capitalize on the growing tablet market, this venture should also be seen as an important sign for educators: We are about to see a tablet explosion on campuses! As tablet options grow and content becomes more available online, it is only natural that collegiate students will begin seeing the devices as viable devices for their use on campus. Look at laptop ownership. The ECAR National Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology reports that 87% of collegiate students own laptops. Laptops, however, are not ideal devices for collegiate students. While laptops support content authoring, they are not natural reading devices, at least not as compared to books. Or tablets. Considering their functionality and their cost, I believe we are only a few semesters from seeing an explosion of tablet ownership in our classrooms. And this isn’t just my opinion, either. The Person Foundation recently published a comprehensive report on tablet ownership and student access to digital media. Some highlights from the study:
- Tablet ownership has more than tripled among college students since March 2011, with one-quarter now owning a standard tablet (25%), compared to only 7% in March 2011.
- More than six in ten college students agree that tablets help students to study more efficiently (66%) and help students to perform better in classes (64%).
- 63% of college students believe that tablets will effectively replace textbooks as we know them today within the next five years.
- 58% of college students prefer a digital format when reading textbooks for class.
Whether it’s with a Kindle Fire, an iPad, or with an Android tablet, collegiate students are becoming more comfortable with using tablet computers and seeing their use as vital to their academic success. Google Play’s emergence heralds the coming tablet era on collegiate campuses. The big question though, is: “Are we as educators ready?”