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posted by janrinok on Thursday April 24 2014, @07:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the a-keyboard-would-be-useful dept.

Fewer college students use tablets; may be a sign that the device doesn't boost productivity.

Ball State researcher says students use tablets mostly for entertainment; many question whether the technology can be used for academic projects. How much real work can one get done on a tablet? Or are tablets mostly designed for entertainment? The questions arise as a recent survey of college students showed a small decline in tablet ownership. About 29% of college students said they owned a tablet in 2014, slightly less than did in 2012, according to a new study by Michael Hanley, a professor of advertising and director of Ball State University's Institute for Mobile Media Research. Hanley said the decline comes as tablets are seen as primarily tools to entertain. They aren't seen as tools for heavy writing or college projects due to its lack of a physical keyboard and laptop and desktop type power, he added.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by skullz on Thursday April 24 2014, @07:41PM

    by skullz (2532) on Thursday April 24 2014, @07:41PM (#35743)

    Tablets are a consuming tool, not a producing tool. The most you could use them for would be to search your digital text book for something.

    The only table that would actually work as a school workhorse would be the Microsoft Surface due to using IE (which many admin websites at schools require) and the ability to load any word processor and keyboard you want and even then you would probably want to hook it up to a larger display.

    Have these experts that proclaim tablets are going to kill the PC actually used them to write their opinions for more than a week? People have switched from consuming media on their PC to consuming on their TV / tablet. Production hasn't shifted.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by bob_super on Thursday April 24 2014, @07:53PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Thursday April 24 2014, @07:53PM (#35754)

      Shhhh...

      If you use common sense, people will stop buying stuff they don't need.
      Do you know what that would do to my investment funds?

    • (Score: 2) by metamonkey on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:00PM

      by metamonkey (3174) on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:00PM (#35757)

      I wouldn't bother with the Surface when there are laptop/tablet devices that run Windows 8. There's the ASUS Transformer, and I've got a Lenovo Yoga 11s with a keyboard and screen you can flip around four different ways depending on how you're using it. I dual boot Windows 8.1 and OpenSUSE 13.1, so it's a fully featured computer that turns into a large tablet. It's heavier, obv, but I'm a beefy dude, so it's fine. It's kind of the best of both worlds.

      --
      Okay 3, 2, 1, let's jam.
      • (Score: 3) by skullz on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:44PM

        by skullz (2532) on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:44PM (#35781)

        How has OpenSUSE worked out with the touch screen, if I may ask? I've tried the live USB distros on mine but couldn't get anything done without using the keyboard and mouse.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by metamonkey on Friday April 25 2014, @01:55PM

          by metamonkey (3174) on Friday April 25 2014, @01:55PM (#36074)

          I generally don't use it as a table with linux. The touch screen works, in that when I touch the screen it acts like a mouse click happened there. But I don't get autorotation, pinch to zoom or any of those other tablet features. In linux mode I use it as a laptop, not a tablet.

          --
          Okay 3, 2, 1, let's jam.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by BasilBrush on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:01PM

      by BasilBrush (3994) on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:01PM (#35758)

      Tablets are a consuming tool, not a producing tool.

      Tablets are ill-fitted for producing text documents. But there are plenty of other kinds of creation and for some of them the tablet is better than a PC.

      That being said, at college, producing long text documents tends to be a requirement, so a PC is needed. That doesn't mean tablets aren't useful for education. In kindergarten tablets are far better than PCs in pretty much every respect. And in the years between kindergarten and college, there is varying advantages to the two technologies.

      And let's not forget that reading textbooks and doing research are consumption activities.

      --
      Hurrah! Quoting works now!
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:08PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:08PM (#35759)

      Tablets are a consuming tool, not a producing tool. The most you could use them for would be to search your digital text book for something.

      Maybe for you, but countless others use tablets for music and video creation, for drawing, for document creation, etc. Seems you're just ignorant about how a tablet can be used for producing things.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by skullz on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:36PM

        by skullz (2532) on Thursday April 24 2014, @08:36PM (#35775)

        I tried drawing on my Surface and while it was a fantastic tool with the custom pen it couldn't match a wacom and keyboard. I'm talking about Adobe or Gimp software here. Using only the pen/touch interface there wasn't enough surface area to see the menu options and when you use a touch interface drawing tool the options were all hidden behind clever spin out menus and took too many clicks to get things done. Sketches, notes, etc, fine. But actual artwork not so much.

        I suppose you could capture some okay video using a tablet but it won't compare to a Canon or other camera and editing music or video on a tablet seems to be frustrating. Are you talking about Adobe After Effects or Final Cut? Because that's what I expect a college student editing film for a class to be using. That takes a speedy processor, lots and lots of RAM, and a TON of bits on the drive.

        Maybe cat videos...

      • (Score: 2) by Tork on Thursday April 24 2014, @09:33PM

        by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 24 2014, @09:33PM (#35804)
        Speaking of ignorance: "Can be used" is not the same is "is awesome for". You'll find the occasional person who manages to make magic with the thing, the problem is they do not represent the average. Incidentally this is a good life lesson for you, you'll save money on QVC.
        --
        🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
    • (Score: 2) by emg on Thursday April 24 2014, @09:01PM

      by emg (3464) on Thursday April 24 2014, @09:01PM (#35792)

      There are plenty of word processors available for Android; they suck if you're using an on-screen keyboard, but you can still write at a reasonable rate if you have to.

      The problem is that a tablet with a real keyboard is just a sucky laptop at a higher price. Which is why I have both.

    • (Score: 2) by morgauxo on Thursday April 24 2014, @09:38PM

      by morgauxo (2082) on Thursday April 24 2014, @09:38PM (#35806)

      >>Tablets are a consuming tool, not a producing tool.

      Exactly! But... far more people are digital consumers than producers. Meanwhile corporations seem to be so set on owning the largest markets they throw away product lines that don't appeal to the largest number of people. I fear the day may come when those of us who want to actual do something will have a hard time finding suitable hardware.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Foobar Bazbot on Thursday April 24 2014, @10:52PM

      by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Thursday April 24 2014, @10:52PM (#35829) Journal

      The only table that would actually work as a school workhorse would be the Microsoft Surface due to using IE (which many admin websites at schools require) and the ability to load any word processor and keyboard you want

      When I was in school (before modern tablets -- I used several x86 machines, including a convertible tablet PC with touchscreen and wacom digitizer, and eventually a Nokia N800), I never had to use IE, possibly because I, like most students, wasn't an admin and thus didn't need to access an "admin website". My primary computer is now an Asus TF700t tablet, and if I were dissatisfied with the keyboard dock (which isn't great, but as good as most laptop keyboards), I could in fact connect "any keyboard I want" to my tablet. Well, any bluetooth or USB keyboard; hooking up a PS/2 or earlier keyboard would require exactly the same uncommon adapter as on a modern desktop with no dedicated keyboard port.

      IMO the keyboard thing is a red herring anyway, as most students, in my experience, bought laptops rather than desktops, and chose them with little or no regard for keyboard quality; many of them got a "desktop replacement" laptop too large to be really portable, thus ended up literally using it as a desktop replacement (i.e. semi-permanently sitting on a desk), and of those most still didn't bother connecting a better-quality keyboard! So while I freely acknowledge the deficiencies of every tablet keyboard dock or bluetooth keyboard case I've ever seen, and recognize the value of a quality desktop keyboard for those who spend all day typing, I think you overestimate the importance of "any keyboard you want" for college students who type no more than a couple hours a day.

      You have a point about a word processor, but not everyone falls into the WYSIWYG-for-everything trap; when classes required homework to be submitted as .doc, or just required fancy formatting, I would do the bulk of the writing in a text editor, then pull it into Word to apply styles. (When such formatting wasn't required, I would use plain text the whole way.) While I'm not sure any of the mobile office suites is suitable for properly formatting stuff with styles, doing 90% of the work on a eminently portable ARM machine, and involving an x86 desktop for the last 10% (whether sitting at the desktop, or via RDP with the tablet) seems like a win.

      A more serious objection (at least for my course of study) would be that a tablet doesn't have the gumption for serious computation, (e.g. matlab, PRO/E, etc.), and that many such apps aren't even available for tablets in the first place, but as with document formatting, RDP/VNC/citrix solves this on modern wifi-blanketed campuses. (And any x86 laptop with decent portability and battery life will have to do the same for non-toy computations.) A tablet with keyboard dock works great for creation of principally text content (including code -- emacs, vim, etc. all work as you'd expect), and well enough as a portable terminal accessing a desktop-as-app-server for computationally-demanding or x86-only content creation.

      Yes, I'd rather have a proper ARM laptop (for better mechanical robustness), but until the industry actually starts producing those, a tablet with always-attached keyboard dock does fine.

    • (Score: 1) by cge on Friday April 25 2014, @04:49AM

      by cge (67) on Friday April 25 2014, @04:49AM (#35930)

      It may be easier to use tablets for consumption than production, but they are quite good for consumption, which in itself can be useful. Doing research, I've found tablets amazing for journal paper reading, especially when combined with a laptop so I can write while using the tablet to refer to the papers.

      A major obstacle for college students, however, has to do with textbook copyrights and support. Tablets are amazing for students who are willing and able to find pirated copies of textbooks, especially with the cost of one or two textbooks easily approaching that of a good tablet, the vast weight and ease of access difference, and ease of making annotations that can be quickly reviewed. I know students who simply never bought textbooks. But the vast majority of textbooks have no legal method to read them on tablets and those that do are often absurd: I've seen situations where a textbook is $125 new for a physical copy, or $125 for an electronic copy that one can only access for six months!

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by umafuckitt on Thursday April 24 2014, @07:58PM

    by umafuckitt (20) on Thursday April 24 2014, @07:58PM (#35755)

    I don't find new tech is "boosting" my productivity. Sure, I can put my work reading material on my tablet. That's more convenient since it means I don't have to carry books or papers with me. Also, I can use the search facility on a tablet. But really this is just a convenience. In reality my productivity is probably lower when reading on a tablet, as it's more distracting what with e-mails coming in and so forth.

    When I think "productivity", I think "how quickly can I finish this project and with what quality?". A project might be something that goes on over a day or two, or something that goes on over a period of months. Either way, doing it well and doing it fast depends on stuff an iPad (or similar) can't help me with. Am I approaching the problem correctly? Am I talking to the right people about it? Is it even a sensible problem to tackle? Do I have the right skills for solving the problem in the way I want to? Do I need to learn something new before addressing the problem? Knowing the answers to those and similar questions are what will get things done quickly. In other words, getting your life skills sorted and not wasting time will boost your productivity. In most cases (and yes, YMMV) messing around with glowing toys is irrelevant.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by ObsessiveMathsFreak on Friday April 25 2014, @12:18AM

      by ObsessiveMathsFreak (3728) on Friday April 25 2014, @12:18AM (#35862)

      Mathematics is my game. Despite knowing how to code, and frequently emplying code, 95% of my actual work is done with pen, on paper. I would love to have some kind of tablet to make thing more instantly digitisable, but right now, nothing comes even close to simple paper and afterwards a scanner. I don't even edit documents digitally as it takes too much effort.

      The single greatest increases in my productivity over the last 18 months have been:

      1) Access to a high quality tray feeding scanner.
      2) My late in life discovery of "white-out" correction tape. Expensive but awesome.

      That tablets _cannot_ yet replace simple paper came as something of a shock to me. Fundamentally, the problem is quality, accessible, reliable and open software with which to make the transition. Instead, all that was available was low quality "Apps". Tablets are not a serious medium for anything half-way serious.

      • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Friday April 25 2014, @03:47AM

        by umafuckitt (20) on Friday April 25 2014, @03:47AM (#35920)

        I would love to have some kind of tablet to make thing more instantly digitisable, but right now, nothing comes even close to simple paper and afterwards a scanner.

        What about this [livescribe.com]?

        • (Score: 2) by TK on Friday April 25 2014, @05:25PM

          by TK (2760) on Friday April 25 2014, @05:25PM (#36199)

          I have one of these. I used it for about a year before I stopped. I take my best notes with a pencil and eraser, but I preferred this to using a laptop to take notes.

          This was circa 2009 or so, maybe they've improved the design since then, but here's what I remember. The audio quality was great. The ink cartridges got used up fairly quickly. The resolution of "scans" was low, but not unbearable. The pen itself was heavy and wide, it fatigued my hand well before the end of a given class. That last one was the single biggest factor. If they've slimmed down the newest models, I may reconsider, but I take a lot fewer notes these days.

          I would recommend this more for meeting notes than for lecture notes, just get a digital recorder for those.

          --
          The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Nr_9 on Thursday April 24 2014, @11:18PM

    by Nr_9 (2947) on Thursday April 24 2014, @11:18PM (#35838)

    As a PhD student, I read a lot of articles, and my tablet is great for this. I can annotate the pdfs with my wacom pen and transfer the notes to Zotero. It is slightly slower than doing it on paper, but it's a major advantage to have everything electronically. Saves space and makes it immensely easier to search for and use later.

    Granted, if I had to do notes by writing with my finger I would probably go mad within hours, so one really needs the right equipment for the job.

    • (Score: 1) by hendrikboom on Saturday April 26 2014, @12:03PM

      by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 26 2014, @12:03PM (#36568) Homepage Journal

      Yes. You get it. Probably because you have a decent tablet.

      If my tablet had a Wacom-grade screen, was not locked down, and I could run a normal Linux system on it, it would be a lot more productive. As it is, it's a consumer device, and it doesn't even do that as well as I'd like.

      I'm writing this on an Asus 1000 HE netbook running Debian testing. This laptop is so slow that it can't do flash videos worth beans; yet it does just fine with the Matroshka videos my tablet chokes on. And I can do useful work on the netbook, too. Having an OS that's actually updated now and then is a real bonus.

      For the record, the tablet is a Transformer TF101, with a keyboard.

      I'm looking for a better laptop and/or tablet. But the plethora of locked-down systems on the market, and systems that might lock down on upgrade (everything with Microsoft's secure boot is in this category) is depressing.

      -- hendrik

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25 2014, @01:53AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25 2014, @01:53AM (#35894)

    Im finishing my CS undergrad, and I switched this semester to Note 8 from regular paper notebook. It is sweet! I can take all the notes I need AND record the lecture at the same time! The recording is super useful for review. I can also send my notes via email to anyone who missed class, along with the audio recording. However, if you were not adamant about taking notes before, a shiny tablet won't help!

    Also I do not like digital ebooks. I feel like I need a second tablet one for the book one for the notes, so I dont have to switch back and forth all the time. I still use my laptop to type and code with, so it is not a substitute, but it can be very useful for notes and recordings!

  • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Friday April 25 2014, @07:38AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Friday April 25 2014, @07:38AM (#35967) Journal

    So why am I still getting all these promos from my alleged Technical Assistance Department for things like "iPads for the iProf"? Seriously. (They also send out lots of "tech tips" like how to use the caplock key with M$ Word, and how to highlight in M$ Word, and how to use "find" in M$ Word. Gotta love those tech guys, they are so advanced!!)