Please see Choosing a Device for more information on devices to host assistive technology.
Tablets are not a specific type of assistive technology themselves, but a means by which technologies can be used. Because of this, they are evaluated the same way as laptops, comparing price to what the hardware offers. Tablets are already widespread and effectively used, ranging from helping educate patients with breast cancer (Morgan, 2015) to teach mathematics (Galligan et al. 2010; Kosheleva et al. 2007), to handwriting skills (Yanikoglu et al. 2017). Tablets have been shown to greatly enhance student motivation when learning, which directly impacts how well they learn (Enriquez, 2010; Li et al. 2010).
The two most competitive brands of tablets are Apple iPads and Google Androids. iPads are widely considered the better of the two, mainly for reasons such as generally more streamlined user friendliness in its software, less risk of viruses due to tighter control over its app market, and more accessories and dedicated apps. However, the Android has a few unique advantages, for example, multiple users can share one device, and apps can be shared, or not, between different users. This feature is appealing for school and education purposes, as multiple students can have their own profile on the same tablet, and a teacher can control which students get access to which apps. The Android also supports universal serial bus ports (USB), which allows for easier file transfers between tablet and computer, and more tablets connected to a computer at the same time.
If a tablet is being purchased for purely assistive technology purposes, any of the leading brands will work. Even relatively demanding apps, such as Dragon Anywhere, take a fraction of the iPad Pro’s power, and modern tablets are well above the minimum requirements for software. Cheaper models will experience some slowness, based on customer reports. Unless the tablet is intended to be used for additional features beyond assistive technologies, such as demanding video editing and rendering, processors should not be a concern, and 1-2GB of RAM, which is low, is sufficient. Note that with RAM closer to 1GB, load-up times for apps and libraries will be several seconds longer. A RAM at or above 4GB is elite for modern tablets, able to handle many demanding tasks very quickly at the same time. More important technical specifications are the quality of the speakers, battery life, and screen resolution (1536 x 2048 is solid benchmark, higher is excellent). For purposes of assistive technology, storage is also a general non-issue, unless the tablet is intended to be used for other purposes as well. Most tablets have higher storage options for higher price; the below listed are the prices for the minimum storage and higher priced options should only be considered if intending to keep lots of picture or videos stored on the tablet. If OCR is a desired tech, the camera becomes more important.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.
Tablets can be a lighter, portable alternative to a personal laptop for students. Also tend to be more user friendly. Shown to increase motivation to learn.
Can be distractions, especially if used for purposes beyond assistive technology. Tend to be expensive, and can be broken.
Tablets are an explosive industry and new models area constantly being released every year. Consider When buying the newest model, remember that it will only be new for a short time. When buying for elite hardware, note that better hardware will likely be available in a short time. Also for compatibility, match the operating system to the one the school yet.
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Enriquez, A. G. (2010). Enhancing student performance using tablet computers. College Teaching, 58(3), 77-84. doi:10.1080/87567550903263859
Galligan, L., Loch, B., McDonald, C., & Taylor, J. (2010). The use of tablet and related technologies in mathematics teaching. Australian Senior Mathematics Journal, 24(1), 38–51.
Kosheleva, O., Rusch, A., & Loudina, V. (2007). Pre-service teacher training in mathematics using tablet technology. Informatics in Education, 6(2), 321–334.
Li, S. C., Pow, J. W. C., Wong, E. M. L., & Fung, A. C. W. (2010). Empowering student learning through tablet PCs: A case study. Education and Information Technologies, 15(3), 171–180.
Trouche, L., & Drijvers, P. (2010). Handheld technology for mathematics education: Flashback into the future. ZDM Mathematics Education, 42, 667–681
Yanikoglu, B., Gogus, A. & Inal, E. Education Tech Research Dev (2017) 65: 1369. https://doi-org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/10.1007/s11423-017-9532-3
Written by Francis Wall, Last Revision March 2018