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A few weeks ago I wrote about getting an Acer Iconia A500 tablet and the reasons I got with the biggest one being economic (Staples had a $100 off tablets coupon deal). Well, I have been putting the Acer through its paces and so far I have been pleased. My biggest reason for getting a tablet was to have a bridge device between my phone and my laptop. There have been times when taking a laptop to places wound up being impractical. On the other side, trying to do some tasks using my phone have been a bit of a chore too. So I guess the tablet is my Goldilocks device, just right. Am I ready to sell my laptop yet? No way! When I was shopping for a new computer a few months ago I actually asked if a tablet would suffice. I was told no in no uncertain terms and I agree with that answer now. So what do I use my tablet for?
One thing I have heard is that tablets are not creation devices which is not true. I like to hole up at a local coffee shop and write my drafts of blog post (such as this one) or other documents such as course curriculum. Then I retrieve the document and put the finishing touches on it. When I had an iPhone, the typing experience was not too bad but it changed when I switched to my Atrix Android phone. It was just uncomfortable for me so I stopped drafting documents which hurt my productivity, especially my blogging. Even though I can attach a physical keyboard to my tablet I think doing so defeats the purpose of having a tablet. I know the ASUS crowd will disagree with me but if I need a keyboard I should just bring my laptop. I do recommend spending a few dollars and purchasing a good mobile office suite app such as Quickoffice Pro. While Google Docs has an app it is not a great writing experience for me. Probably the best app to have on any device is Evernote but using it on a tablet is a great experience. I also, like checking my social media and responding, especially Google+ in which I tend to share my opinion more than Facebook and Twitter. One thing bit of creativity I have done that surprised me is taking pictures. I always thought a camera on the back of a tablet was a waste but there have been a few times I actually snapped a photo with my tablet because it was handy. The ability to edit photos and video is getting better but it still does not compare with using the power of a laptop.
How do I consume using my tablet? The biggest strength of tablets is as media consumption devices. I do surf the net for sites but I sometimes mark them using Read it Later. When I sat in on some interviews recently, I used my tablet to lookup candidates' websites without being too obtrusive. Reading news and blogs is great on my tablet when I use Pulse and the Google Reader apps. After school, I can go somewhere to get away from my classroom and use the tablet to check student blogs and check-in with Edmodo for grading and answer students’ questions. At home I must check the IMDB app several times while I am watching TV to learn more about a program or movie. Another nice thing is I have logged in to watch streams of a few conferences because I don't have to drag out the laptop and it really does not drain my battery. Something I would like to try at a conference sometime is hookup my tablet and have it show back channel streams while my presentation or demonstration is going on my laptop. The problem is my tablet uses an HDMI port for video out. It looks nice but many projectors do not have an HDMI port.
While my laptop will never be too far away and I will always have my phone, I actually see my tablet becoming a constant companion. It is light and has a small footprint which is perfect for coffee shops and attending conferences. My tablet allows me to do small writing projects or start larger ones. It fits into a small slingpack I bought at Eddie Bauer's along with my Nook and Livescribe notebook and pen. All I have to do is grab it and head to the library, coffee shop, book store, or other places and I am ready to be productive or playful depending on my mood. This setup also allows me to grab a few things from the store without lugging a lot of weight. Will tablets become the computing device most people will use in the future? Without a doubt and I think Apple is pushing us that way now. Can students be successful using a tablet in the classroom now? Yes, with some logistical help from home and school. Remember, tablets are not yet fully functional computers yet but I believe they make a better device to bring than a phone (but phones will work too). Chances are if you see me then my tablet is probably not too far away.