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Open Access


Research Article

Teaching and Learning with Mobile Technology: A Qualitative Explorative Study about the Introduction of Tablet Devices in Secondary Education

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliation Department of Educational Studies, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium

Affiliation iMinds-MICT-Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium

  • Hannelore Montrieux, 
  • Ruben Vanderlinde, 
  • Tammy Schellens, 
  • Lieven De Marez


  • Published: December 7, 2015
  • Reader Comments

Table 1

This paper investigates teachers’ and students’ perceptions concerning the impact of using tablet devices for teaching and learning purposes. An explorative focus group study was conducted with teachers (n = 18) and students (n = 39) in a secondary school that has implemented tablet devices since 2012. The general finding of this study shows that the use of tablet devices in the classroom setting has an impact on both teaching and learning practices. The results suggest that teachers can be divided into two categories: the innovative teachers and the instrumental teachers. Innovative teachers attempt to shift from a teacher-centered to a learning-centered approach. They have changed their teaching style by transforming lessons in accordance with the advantages tablet computers can offer. Instrumental teachers seem to use the device as a ‘book behind glass’. The distinction between the two groups has consequences for both the way courses are given and how students experience them. In general, the introduction of tablet devices entails a shift in the way students learn, as the devices provide interactive, media-rich, and exciting new environments. The results of this study indicate that policy makers should consider introducing technical and pedagogical support in order to facilitate both teachers’ and students’ understanding of the full potential of this kind of technology in education.

Citation: Montrieux H, Vanderlinde R, Schellens T, De Marez L (2015) Teaching and Learning with Mobile Technology: A Qualitative Explorative Study about the Introduction of Tablet Devices in Secondary Education. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144008.

Editor: Andrew R. Dalby, University of Westminster, UNITED KINGDOM

Received: June 24, 2015; Accepted: November 12, 2015; Published: December 7, 2015

Copyright: © 2015 Montrieux et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper.

Funding: The authors have no support or funding to report.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Information and communication technology is a principal driver in our Information Society [ 1 ] of which the immediate consequences for educational practice can be observed [ 2 ]. Following this evolution, several authors [ 3 , 4 ] have mentioned the need to shift from the traditional classroom setting, where the student is seen as a passive consumer of educational knowledge, to a classroom in which learners are considered active participants and where collaboration and sharing information in a resource-rich environment is given precedence. To advance this shift and the necessary educational reform, hardware and software developers promote new technological tools, and more specifically tablet devices, as magic devices [ 5 , 6 ]. These tablets are more narrowly defined by the New Media Consortium in 2012 as iPads, Windows -or Android devices, i.e. small, wireless, mobile personal computers which have finger-driven touch screens and are backed-up by diverse applications in a well-provisioned application marketplace [ 7 ].

According to this transformation to a more technology-enhanced learning approach, Hattie [ 8 ] has indicated that: "An analysis of the meta analyses of computers in schools indicates that computers are used effectively (a) when there is a diversity of teaching strategies; (b) when there is a pre-training in the use of computers as a teaching and learning tools; (c) when there are multiple opportunities for learning (e . g . deliberative practice , increasing time on task); (d) when a student , not teacher , is in "control" of learning; (e) when peer learning is optimized; and (f) when feedback is optimized . " [ 8 ]. In other words, Hattie [ 8 ] claimed that the following conditions should be fulfilled in order to integrate technology into the classroom; namely the role of the teacher, the need of professionalization, and the need of adapted teaching and learning approaches.

While it can be argued that the use of technology during classes can support constructivist approaches [ 9 , 10 ], implementing technology into classes does not imply a radical change of the didactics [ 11 , 12 ]. According to Yelland [ 13 ] learning with technology needs more than making learning activities digital, it is also about creating ‘contexts for authentic learning that use new technologies in integrated and meaningful ways to enhance the production of knowledge and the communication and dissemination of ideas’ [ 13 ].

Obviously, with regard to integrating technology into the classroom setting, it is the teacher’s main responsibility to facilitate this educational innovation [ 14 , 15 ]. In this light, Fullan [ 16 ] formulated three important dimensions for educational innovation: (1) the possible use of adaptive material; (2) the possible use of new teaching approaches and, (3) the possible change of beliefs. While the need to investigate perceptions is emphasized by numerous authors [ 15 , 16 ] who stress that cognisance of end users’ perceptions of this technological innovation is crucial for predicting the success, speed and extent of its integration in classroom practice, teachers’ beliefs and attitudes towards innovation should be examined. Furthermore, research of Fullan [ 16 ] and Niederhauser & Stoddart [ 17 ] show that teachers’ beliefs are crucial; their beliefs are related to the actual uses of the implemented technology. The personal willingness of teachers to adopt and integrate innovations into their classroom practice is the key for successfull innovation [ 18 , 19 , 20 ]. In this context, Niederhauser et al. [ 17 ] and Becker et al. [ 21 ] distinguished between two kinds of teachers; those who either have a constructivist approach or have a more behaviourist approach to the use of technology in education. In particular, teachers who held more traditional beliefs about teaching and learning tended to use didactic instructional methods while teachers with more constructivist beliefs tended to use student-centered inquiry based methods. Understanding their beliefs is clearly a first step in the development of a deeper understanding of educational innovations in the context of complex classroom practices [ 22 ].

Integrating innovative technology during classroom practices inevitably demands teachers to acquire new technological and pedagogical skills [ 7 ]. The didactical use of tablet devices is decisive for the learning process [ 23 ]. Teachers need skills to be able to transform the learning content, the so-called Technological Pedagogical Content knowledge (TPACK) [ 24 ]. However, it is known that most of the teachers integrate technology in order to provide content in a digital way, instead of using them to enhance learner-centered approaches [ 23 ]. In this light, Welliver' s instructional transformation model [ 25 ] can be introduced. This model describes the stages that reflect the level of technology integration among teachers. The five stages are familiarization, utilization, integration, reorientation, and (r) evolution. While familiarization entails the stage where the teacher becomes aware of technology and its potential uses, (r)evolution refers to the stage where technology is a learning tool that is seamlessly woven into the teaching and learning process. In other words, technology can be integrated from enhancing learning to transforming learning.

While an amount of research described teachers’ perceptions towards a number of technological tools, such as learning management systems [ 26 ], digital learning environments [ 27 ], and blogs [ 28 ], studies concerning teachers’ perceptions of tablet computers are limited [ 29 , 30 ]. Although there is relatively little academic research on the use of tablet devices, the exceptions include for instance the work of Burden [ 31 ], Clark & Luckin [ 7 ], Clarke & Svanaes [ 32 ], Montrieux et al. [ 30 ], Cumming et al. [ 33 ], and Heinrich [ 34 ]. This available perceptions-based research showed that teachers expressed positive perceptions towards using tablets [ 8 , 30 , 31 , 35 ]. The reported instrumental advantages of this innovation were related to administrative tasks, but more importantly it enabled teachers to provide a wider range of learning activities. The availability of a wide range of apps, the connectivity to the outside world beyond the formal school walls, the immediacy of communication tools enables teachers to explore alternative activities such as 3D, multimodal, virtual tours, … In addition, teachers reported more possibilities to differentiate learning more easily and sharing information [ 4 , 8 , 33 ]. Cumming, Strnadova, & Singh [ 33 ] claim that teachers pointed to the possibility of ‘real world teaching’, fostering students’ involvement. Heinrich [ 34 ] pointed to the same findings concerning teacher perceptions on tablet use, involving using tablets to administrating as taking presence registrations and planning classes. They also felt that tablets promote differentiated learning. Nevertheless, implementing tablet devices into the classroom is not easy, and requires teacher training [ 8 , 23 , 31 , 35 ].

Besides the importance of the teacher, few studies examined the impact of important school-level variables that can influence the integration of technology into classes [ 36 ]. Studies of Goodison [ 37 ] and Hayes [ 38 ] have shown that local school conditions affect the integration of technology into teaching and learning practices. In particular, the importance of the ICT-coordinator, who can guide the technology implementation by scaffolding teachers [ 39 ], adequate school ICT-support [ 40 ] and school ICT infrastructure [ 4 , 41 ] need to be considered during technology innovation into classrooms.

A comprehensive model that highlights the different aspects of technology integration is called the e-capacity model [ 42 ]. In this model, ICT as a lever for educational change is influenced by the teacher who has to implement technology in the classroom and can implement technology for different purposes (as a basic ICT-skills tool, a learning tool, a information tool). Followed by the actual use of the teacher, ICT-related teacher conditions are essential, such as teacher competence to deal with the technology and professional development. Next, ICT-related school conditions are needed; such as ICT-support, ICT-coordinators and ICT-infrastructure. Finally, school improvement conditions such as leadership, and the relation between teachers, and participative-decision making are relevant.

Besides the importance of measuring teacher’ perceptions towards the implementation of tablet computers, and the necessary school-supported conditions, the perspective of secondary school learners remains under-researched [ 43 ]. It is not immediately clear whether the use of technology in the classroom improves learning practices [ 44 ]. Research on the impact of tablet devices on student learning indicates that such devices have the potential to support learners by offering them a context in which they can construct and share knowledge in media-rich and stimulating environments [ 5 ]. Additionally, results suggest that the use of tablet devices seems to have an impact on student motivation and promotes meaningful learning experiences [ 35 , 45 ]. For instance, multiple pathways are now available for learning purposes in the form of multimedia, educational games, translation tools, and applications that support learning [ 7 ].

However, more research is needed to understand students’ perceptions concerning the use of tablet devices in an educational context [ 46 ]. The little available research, such as from Rossing, Miller, Cecil, & Stamper [ 47 ], shows that students were very positive concerning the use of tablets in higher education, stating these devices are beneficial for immediate access to information and enhancing learning experiences, according different learning styles and preferences. Other available research such as the report from Clark & Luckin [ 7 ] confirm these findings by stating students are generally reported to be positive about the tablet implementation, reporting the possibilities to motivate, engage them to learning, the possibility to make communication between peers and peers, and peers and teachers easier, and the added value for collaboration. These findings show an increased motivation, enthusiasm, interest, engagement, creativity and so on. Overall, research focusing on teachers’ and students’ perceptions towards the use of tablet devices shows that learning appears to have become more attractive. The ease of use, the availability and direct access to the World Wide Web and the lower threshold between students and teachers at the level of communication are some of the elements that reflect the changing nature of learning [ 7 , 31 ].

However, while recent research stated that adding 21 st century technologies to 20 th century teaching practices would just dilute the effectiveness of teaching [ 48 ]. Specific research is needed to unravel the perceptions of both teachers and students concerning the actual use of tablet devices in education. Most of the little available perceptions-based research reports on the students and teachers’ perceptions towards the impact of the tablet devices for a relatively short time period and are particularly conducted in the context of primary or higher education. Most of this kind of research reports the perceptions towards the introduction of tablet devices, where a novelty effect can partly explain the positive reactions of both teachers and students. No solid information is yet available in the literature concerning the overall perception of tablet devices. In conclusion, more research is needed to unpack the potential of tablet devices that goes further than the sales hype [ 6 ].

In order to expand existing research, a focus group study was conducted to investigate the perceptions of students and teachers on these devices after a six-month utilization period in the first ‘iPad-school’ in Belgium that has implemented tablet devices in a radical, school-wide way where both teachers and students used the tablet devices intensively during all courses, and both at school and at home. This implementation gave researchers the opportunity to investigate the students’ and teachers’ perceptions of on the changing teaching and learning practices, and as such, contribute to the existing literature. Due to the importance of gathering the perceptions towards this long-term implementation of tablet devices and the given context where we have this first iPadschool in Flanders, an explorative study was obtained. This study has the purpose to investigate the first impressions of the teachers and students towards this implementation. In this case, a explorative study was appropriate.

In order to answer the above mentioned problem statement focusing on the impact of tablet devices towards teaching and learning practices, the present study explores the following questions:

  • How do teachers and students experience the role of the teacher following the introduction of tablet devices in the classroom setting? What are, in other words, the consequences for teaching practices?
  • What are the perceptions of both teachers and students towards this change in learning practices?
  • What are the perceptions on the conditions that support these teaching and learning practices?

A qualitative focus group study was conducted in the first secondary school in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium) that has implemented tablet devices (iPads) into the whole school and classroom organisation. At the beginning of the school year 2012, each teacher and student received a personal tablet for use both at school and at home. Following Rogers’ [ 49 ] innovation diffusion theory, which describes five stages in the life cycle of any innovation, this school can be considered as an ‘innovator’ with regard to the introduction of tablet devices. The school can be considered a pioneer in this respect, as it was a school-wide decision to use these devices in all grades and classrooms. As this school is unique in Belgium, being the first to mobilise this education al overhaul, the appropriate approach was to set up a focus group study to examine in-depth the perceptions of both students and teachers about the introduction of tablet devices during teaching and learning practices. Conducting focus group studies gave participants for the first time after the implementation the opportunity to give their opinion and to discuss about their views. The use of focus group interviews is a common method for gathering data in qualitative educational research and was an appropriate method to gather explorative information on the perceptions of teachers and students currently using tablet computers in the pioneer school [ 50 , 51 ]. In particular, issues can be examined in depth. Krueger & Morgan [ 52 ] define this method as: “A carefully planned series of discussions designed to obtain perceptions on a defined area of interest in a permissive , non-threatening environment” .

Sampling and Research Procedure

In accordance with Krueger & Casey’s guidelines [ 53 ], six focus group interviews of each ten participants were organised. More concretely, the recruitment of the participants was made ad random. Forty students and twenty teachers were invited after six months of using tablet devices in the classroom organisation. In order to select participants with different opinions, we have chosen not to accept voluntarily participants. Initially, twenty boys and twenty girls of age 11–14 and age 15–18 were selected of the student list and were invited to join a focus group interview. In particular, 20 boys and 19 girls of the 40 invited students attended the interviews. Due to practical issues, the school board selected two times ten teachers who met the proposed criteria of equal gender, more-less years of experience and the course they give (a variety of courses). In the end, only two of the twenty teachers did not participate. In sum, of the focus groups, two comprised teachers (n = 18); two comprised students aged between 11–14 years (n = 20); and two comprised students aged between 15–18 (n = 19).

For every focus group, a semi-structured interview of 90 minutes was conducted in order to investigate the participants’ initial perceptions after six months of using tablet devices. More specifically, explorative questions were structured into four categories: introduction questions, questions concerning teaching practices, questions concerning learning practices and final questions. Teachers as well as students were asked the same basic questions (see Table 1 ). These questions are partly inspired by the findings of Hattie [ 8 ] who claimed that the following conditions should be fulfilled in order to integrate technology into the classroom; namely the role of the teacher (research question 1), the need of professionalization (research question 3), and the need of adapted teaching and learning approaches (research question 1 and 2). Finally, the e-capacity model of Vanderlinde & van Braak [ 42 ], which focuses on the role of teachers (research question 1) and school-conditions (research question 3), was taken into account during the development of this focus group study. This model was elaborated by adding the learning aspect (research question 2) and students’ perceptions.


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Based on the three research questions, the information gathered in the teaching practices section of the interview can be used to answer the first research question. In addition, information in the learning practices section was linked to the second research question. Finally, information gathered in the introduction and final questions were related to the third research question. In other words, by conducting this focus group study, we want to examine both teachers and students perceptions towards the tablet implementation, and this with a focus on the role of the teacher and teaching practices, the impact on learning practices and with the ICT-related teacher conditions and school conditions that are needed to implement tablet devices adequately.

Concerning the role of the researchers, they took a neutral role and acted as the moderators of the conversations. To encourage conversation and integrate the tablet device into the study, the application Socrative , a student response system, is been used. Participants could vote and respond to statements. When sufficient data was gathered via the tablet device, a discussion took place. All focus group interviews were videotaped, and all conversations were transcribed.

Measurements and Analysis

The transcribed conversations, the sources of this research, were loaded into the software ‘ NVivo ’, a qualitative data analysis computer software package for which a coding scheme was developed with a particular focus on three proposed research questions. Every respondent received a personal code, which was used in the coding system of NVivo . Based on the three proposed research questions, three coding themes were selected. Data focusing on the teaching aspect were selected under one theme, whereas data concerning the second research question (the learning aspect) are selected for the second theme. Finally, the same procedure for gathering information was used whereby the third coding theme included data that focuses on the conditions needed for implementing tablet devices into classes.

The data were analysed using a two-step procedure [ 54 ]. In the first phase of data analysis, all coded data from each focus group study was brought together and a vertical analysis or within-case analysis [ 54 ] was applied. This led to the creation of a case specific report which organizes and presents both the statistical and interpretative data of each focus group study in the same format using a fixed set of paragraphs. In the second data analytic phase, the results of the vertical analysis of each focus group study were submitted to a horizontal analysis or cross-site analysis [ 54 ] in which the six focus group studies were systematically compared for similarities and differences. To safeguard the quality of the interpretative data in both the vertical and horizontal analyses, the interpreted results were presented to the teachers involved to allow for feedback. Within this study, the entered answers in the application Socrative were triangulated with the focus group interview data to support the trustworthiness of the explanations of the research results.

Ethics Statement

This research is in line with the general ethical protocol for scientific research of the Ghent University. According to their rules no additional requests to the ethical committee Psychology and Educational Sciences for advice were needed because this research project did not contain a medical bias. This study is conducted in a school, where the decision to introduce tablets into the classroom was made independent of this research. According to a signed agreement between the school and the parents or the guardians, as is stipulated in the school regulations, the host institution is responsible for the participants and has the right and the duty to end any participation in the minor’s interest. In addition to this informed consent between the school and the parents, we sent an information letter to all participants. All relevant information about this study has been adequately explained. In this information letter, we offered an opt-out choice for involvement in this study, if they would disagree with the setup of this study. We declare that this is an independent research in which the authors did not received funding from commercial institutions. According to the ethical scientific research guidelines of the Ethics Committee of the Ghent University, all data were stored anonymously. The authors have no potential conflict of interest.

The results are reported following the three research questions.

RQ 1: How do teachers and students experience the role of the teacher following the introduction of tablet devices in the classroom setting? What are, in other words, the consequences for teaching practices?

To answer the first research question, both students and teachers described two kinds of teaching styles that occurred during the implementation process of the tablet devices, these teaching styles were labelled by the researchers as “instrumental teachers” (67%) and “innovative teachers” (33%). The results indicate that teachers’ perceptions of the tablet devices have an impact on their teaching practices.

The “instrumental teachers” are defined by the researchers and described by the participants as those who did not change their beliefs about their role after the implementation of the tablet in their classroom and consequently, did not change their teaching style drastically. Moreover, they believe the device has a purely instrumental value since there is no need to reserve the computer lab or to copy additional work sheets. These teachers continue to accomplish their role in the same way as before, by stating that the only difference being the replacement of the textbook by the tablet. In sum, these teachers use tablet devices for teaching and learning as the participants have labelled: “a book behind glass” . All students state that, apart from using text-processing applications, such as PDF Expert, little time is spent on didactical applications. In addition, both the students and the teachers claim that the latter have begun to take more control in the classroom. Teachers seem to fear losing control over the class due to the presence of tablet devices, as these teachers believe students are tempted to surf social network sites and play games. Some teachers indicated they experienced difficulty dealing with the shift from their central place, in front of the classroom, to a role in which they had a less controlling function. In other words, and surprisingly, the analysis of the data showed that implementing innovative technology prompted teachers with an instrumental role to become more conservative. This instrumental behaviour could be explained in many ways. First of all, most of these teachers stated that they are disillusioned by the lack of material because many editors cannot follow or provide adapted digital material, causing teachers to feel pressured into taking on the role of authors. Secondly, some teachers mentioned the high workload, due to the lack of adequate material and the rapidness of the implementation. Thirdly, instrumental teachers generally have a traditional view on education in which they have a central role in the distribution of knowledge. In addition, due to the novelty of the tablet implementation and the school being pioneer, teachers stipulate that not many professional courses can be followed. Consequently, these teachers keep using tablet devices in a traditional way. Fourthly, these teachers claimed many students are distracted the Internet which was easier accessible. Finally, some teachers are uncertain as to precisely how the tablet devices have an added value. As a consequence, “instrumental teachers” do not seem to have the desire or energy to create innovative courses. In Fig 1 , a number of comments are tabulated to illustrate these findings about the “instrumental teachers”.


By contrast, and illustrated in Fig 2 , the “innovative teachers” are those who have adopted the role of coach. Both teachers and students indicated that using tablet devices had changed the teaching style and a wider range of learning activities could be organised (e.g. integrating multimedia and developing interactive exercises). These teachers like using more didactical applications next to text-processing ones and emphasize the need to reflect on the link between the purpose of the lesson and the specific application. Teaching and learning should be understood as processes of active learning through applications that mobilise students’ learning processes (i.e., applications to practise content or search the Internet for information). They reported that they realise that learning through the didactical use of tablets has meant a shift from traditional, teacher-centred education to the individual use of tablet devices by the students. They also believe that there is a need for a different didactics, or as the researchers call, “digital didactics”, namely content should be offered via the devices. The so-called ‘innovative teachers’ have abandoned the traditional idea that learning occurs by means of a teacher who fills minds of a passive learner with the aid of the black board. They have a different view on the learning process; and state that learning though tablet devices should allow students to negotiate the content instead of simply aiding the students to learn facts by rote. The teachers claim that these tools facilitates higher-order thinking and reasoning, and that realistic lessons can be offered in order for students to learn in an active manner. In other words, the data indicates that the innovative behaviour of these teachers is associated with a need to rethink didactical practices. Such teachers argue that their changing role makes teaching quite exhausting on the one hand, but more interesting on the other. Whereas course preparation is more intensive and puts the teachers under much pressure, teachers stipulate that it is an investment for the future. Students will learn how to deal with mobile technology in a responsible way, which is an important skill in our modern technological era. The teachers note the importance of preparing their students for a rapidly changing world, where technology is an integral part of society. These teachers believe that introducing tablet computers in secondary education is a good way to start this process as it facilitates a shift towards an active student-centred learning practice. In the end, these teachers were proud to be working for one of the first schools in Belgium to attempt this ‘new’ kind of learning, distinct from traditional learning.


RQ 2: What are the perceptions of both teachers and students towards this change in learning practices?

In terms of the second research question, both teachers and students appreciate the added value of tablet devices, referring to the ease of use, the speed of accessing different learning materials, the ability to be able to instantly search additional information, the ability to take pictures and to integrate notes, and the reduction in the weight of their previously heavy schoolbags. These are all instrumental benefits of these new learning practices researchers label as an ‘all-in-one device’ . Moreover, as reported by most of the students, tablet devices makes learning more interesting. However, data analyses show that especially the younger students (age 11–14 years) are more positive about the use of tablet devices in school. In particular, based on Socrative data, 14 of the 20 students of this age reported that learning was dull before the introduction of tablet computers. In contrast, most of the older students tend to print the course material, use keyboards for writing and are more critical about the use of tablets for learning. More specifically, 13 of the 19 students of this age stated that aside from the added value of using the tables to access multimedia, their overall learning capacity has not increased. These students indicated the problem of having less of an overview of the course content and the major issue of distraction. The teachers also mentioned these disadvantages as a concern. As a distinction can be made among instrumental and innovative teachers, it can concluded that older students tend to have a classical view about learning practices, in comparison with the younger students. However, it seems that the role teachers take also has an impact on learning practices. Both students and teachers stated that if teachers integrate the tablet in a meaningful manner (adopt the role of an innovative teacher), deep learning could be achieved. Innovative teachers stated that learning through these devices could open many doors; one can integrate elements of the daily lives of students, which promotes meaningful learning. The introduction of tablet devices has facilitated a shift from ‘learning by heart’ to learning through multimedia, social media and the integration of the personal world of children, all of which makes learning more meaningful. Finally, as reported by almost every student and teacher, a large benefit of using tablet devices for learning is that students seem to be more inclined to collaborate and share information with each other. Both teachers and students (age 11–18) stated that by using applications such as iMessage and Facebook, students establish online networks and discussion groups spontaneously. Furthermore, more than 75% of the students indicated that the ability to ask their peers questions aids their learning process. Nonetheless, a small number of teachers and students have stated they have concerns about this transfer of social contact to the digital world. Apart from the enhancement of communication between peers mutually, communication between teachers and students is more frequently reported. In addition, one of the central issues of tablets for students’ learning is the blurring of the boundary between school and recreation. Participants claim that the traditional context of learning between the school walls has now extended to a digital learning environment, which allows children and teenagers to access content anywhere and at any time. This shift has both positive and negative aspects. While some participants indicated the benefit of this ‘extended’ kind of learning (i.e., learning that is not limited to the physical school context), others experienced difficulties with this blurred boundary. Additionally, some teachers questioned the need to answer emails from students after school hours, while some students emphasised the temptation to play games or chat with friends when they should be studying. In summary, see Fig 3 for some examples of comments on learning practices.


RQ 3: What are the perceptions on the conditions that support these teaching and learning practices?

With reference to the final research question, the results of the focus group interviews revealed that further support is needed for teaching and learning practices. This need is categorized by the researchers into two preconditions, namely material conditions and the need for professionalization, and should be taken into account when integrating tablet devices in schools.

First, as already mentioned in the first research question and as illustrated in Fig 4 , it is clear that most of the interview time was spent to discuss the needed support and the obvious lack of adequate teaching material using the potential and design of the tablet devices. Teachers and students report the feeling of being somewhat abandoned by publishers, who are lagging behind and provide, as the researchers call, “book behind glass” material instead of adapted teaching materials. In this context, teachers who have not yet taken the innovative teaching role are somewhat thwarted. If editors cannot provide adapted digital material, teachers stated that they are pressured into taking on the role of the actual authors, which leads to high workloads and overall sceptical attitude towards of the integration of tablet devices into their courses. This attitude seems to be one of the most important obstacles preventing the adequate integration of the tablet device. Aside from inadequate teaching materials, the teachers pointed to the speed of the school-wide implementation of the devices, which has also caused teachers to experience an increased workload. It was a rather ‘provocative’ choice of the school board to implement the tablet on the first day of the school year, without knowledge as to whether publishers would follow. With such an abrupt change, not every teacher was given the time to master the use of the device itself and some were unable to find a balance between teaching with devices and being role models for the outside world. Secondly, using tablet devices requires a fast Internet connection and if problems occur, the lesson flow is disrupted. In the interviews, technical and Internet problems were reported to have occurred during classes, which was disillusioning for both students and teachers. Commonly occurring problems included websites that would not open or applications that crashed. However, as students have easy access to the Internet, many teachers complained their students were playing online games.


The final supporting condition is the need for professionalization. As depicted in Fig 5 , the results show that while students aged between 11–14 years are indifferent to their teachers’ need for professional development, the older students have become sceptical about the digital competence of their teachers. These students believe that the teachers need to attend training courses including information about techniques and applications that promote interactive learning. In other words, teachers need to develop adequate skills so that the course content can be optimally delivered via tablet devices.


As depicted in Fig 5 , the teachers expressed mixed opinions concerning their need for professional development. Innovative teachers deem themselves to be skilled tablet device users and state that is their responsibility to provide training and share their expertise with other schools. Concerning the need of training, instrumental teachers expressed two views. While some felt the need for additional instruction, others felt that they simply had no energy left and had thus no desire for additional training. Apart from the need for training, both students and teachers indicate that a strong and competent IT team would contribute to the success of this academic innovation.

Discussion and Conclusion

This study contributes to the existing literature in several respects.

First, the goal of this study was to unravel the perceptions of important stakeholders on the use of tablet devices in secondary education. While investigating perceptions is necessary to analyse the use of technological innovations in education [ 15 , 16 ], specific research that goes further than relatively short-time research, including the influence of the novelty effect when introducing tablet devices, is lacking. Besides the need of investigating teacher perceptions [ 14 , 15 ]; the perspective of secondary school learners remains under-researched [ 43 , 46 ]. More research is needed to unpack the potential of these devices, more specifically research that goes further than the sales hype [ 6 ]. Thus, examining the perceptions of both teachers and students after a considerable time of intensive tablet use is desirable. In order to elaborate existing research, an explorative focus group study was conducted in the first iPad-school in Flanders where the tablet is used in daily teaching and learning practices.

As the results for the first research question have shown, this study confirms that perceptions on any educational innovation will influence its practical integration [ 10 , 16 , 17 ], and that teachers are key to the success of the implementation of technology in schools [ 14 , 19 , 20 ]. The results for the first research question are in line with previous research of Becker et al. [ 21 ] and Niederhauser et al. [ 17 ], who also mentioned that teachers could be distinguished in two groups, namely the behaviourist teachers and the constructivist teachers. Indeed, the results of current study indicate that the teachers using tablet devices can be distinguished into two categories, which has clear consequences for teaching and learning practices. In this context, we labelled the “constructivist teachers” as “innovative teachers”. Innovative teachers attempt to shift from a teacher-centred to a learning-centred innovative approach, integrating educational applications during courses. The “behaviourist teachers” are defined in this study as “instrumental teachers”. Instrumental teacher are teachers who view the instrumental benefits of the tablet and appear to maintain the traditional way of teaching, even while using the tablet devices, since they essentially end up with a simple “book behind glass” . In addition, these two types of teachers can be related to Welliver' s instructional transformation model [ 25 ]. Instrumental teachers can be linked to teachers, who stuck in using tablets without a fundamental change in teaching and learning approaches, who use technology as a functional improvement to enhance learning . Innovative teachers can be linked to the highest level of technology integration whereas teachers use tablet devices to transform learning , which opens teaching and learning practices which were previously inconceivable.

Taken together, the results show that the introduction of innovative technology seems to provoke conservative practices among teachers with an instrumental view as they adopt a stringent role and give traditional courses with a tablet device. This is somewhat contrary to the overall intention of introducing tablet devices; instead of revolutionising education, to the tablet strengthened the old educational structures. In other words, to conduct a lesson in a traditional way with tablet devices consolidates the ‘ancient’ didactic model. This consolidation underlines the importance of switching to digital didactics where the tablet device is integrated in such a way that it is used to its full potential during lessons.

Secondly, findings concerning the second research question of this study corroborate the educational potential of these devices, such as browsing the Internet, working together spontaneously, and using multimedia for a better understanding the course content. Results confirm that tablet devices comprise learning activities that were previously not possible [ 7 , 31 , 33 ], making the device an asset to the learning process. Students in this study reported that in particular the innovative teachers use tablet devices to provide authentic learning experiences and where they can construct and share knowledge in a media-rich environment, which is in line with the little available research [ 5 , 7 , 35 , 45 ]. However, both the students and (innovative) teachers also remarked that the introduction of tablet devices entails a shift in learning, for which not all students are ready. Younger students appear to be more flexible in respect to learning through devices, while it seems difficult for older students to change their study habits. This opens avenues for further research.

Thirdly, the fact that the older students in this study advise teachers to improve their didactical skills in order to master tablet devices is a new phenomenon in the research literature. This finding highlights the importance of taking into account the perceptions of students when investigating the introduction of new technology into education [ 43 ].

Fourthly, following Hattie [ 8 ] and the e-capacity framework of Vanderlinde & van Braak [ 42 ], and as an answer to the third research question, more attention should be paid to the preconditions that ensure the development of innovative teachers through the provision of adapted learning material and an adequate IT infrastructure. Most teachers reported feeling abandoned by publishers due to the lack of adequate teaching material appropriate for the tablet devices. If editors cannot follow or provide adapted digital material, teachers are under pressure to adopt the role of academic authors, which, in turn, generates a heavy workload and ambivalence about the integration of tablet devices into courses. Policy makers should take into account the lack of adequate teaching materials because this deficiency will be an obstacle for schools to implement this technology successfully. Hence, publishers also have a certain responsibility in facilitating the success of these educational innovations. Without appropriate equipment, many teachers will simply use the device in an instrumental way.

Fifthly, more attention should be paid to the (formal and informal) professional development of teachers to support them in this educational reformation [ 31 ]. This finding can be linked to the e-capacity framework of Vanderlinde and van Braak [ 42 ], describing that educational change depends on important school-level variables such as an adequate ICT-support team, infrastructure and teacher professional courses. Introducing new technology into education generates a simultaneous need for professionalization. As indicated above, the teacher’s role and competences are crucial to the success of this innovation; adapted teaching materials and equipment are essential in this respect. Aside from professionalization and the need for adapted teaching materials, teachers need time to become familiar with these new devices. To conclude, this study shows that certain supporting conditions must be in place when implementing technological educational tools [ 7 ]. Moreover, an educational policy that provides adequate preparation for teachers, attention to digital didactics, adapted didactical material, and technical and pedagogical support will stimulate teacher and student recognition of tablet devices’ potential in education. In sum, policy makers and educators should take the possible pitfalls into account mentioned in this study so lessons can be drawn in order to ensure the smoother future implementation of this technology. Avoiding such pitfalls will facilitate the development of new teaching and learning practices in accordance with the needs of the current digital age.

Limitations and Further Research

Apart from qualitative research being an excellent method to gather information about perceptions in depth, some limitations could be formulated. For example, data are collected from a few individual cases and based on first-person perspectives. However, we believe that these findings have an added value to the research world in several respects and that they can be transferable to other innovative settings. In addition, only perceptions of the participants are examined in this study, while these results challenge teaching practices and the development of learning materials in future research it would be interesting to investigate the impact of such tablets on teaching and learning practices. Additional empirical research is needed to gain further insight into the impact of modern technology on teaching and learning. Future research will be conducted to answer didactic questions such as: how should tablet devices be implemented in class contexts and does the use of tablet computers increase motivation and achievement among students? Research on this topic is still an unexplored area, requiring further in-depth studies.

Author Contributions

Conceived and designed the experiments: HM RV TS LD. Performed the experiments: HM RV TS LD. Analyzed the data: HM RV TS LD. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: HM RV TS LD. Wrote the paper: HM RV TS LD.

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Research data collection methods: From paper to tablet computers

  • Epidemiology and Health Promotion
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Background: Primary data collection is a critical activity in clinical research. Even with significant advances in technical capabilities, clear benefits of use, and even user preferences for using electronic systems for collecting primary data, paper-based data collection is still common in clinical research settings. However, with recent developments in both clinical research and tablet computer technology, the comparative advantages and disadvantages of data collection methods should be determined. Objective: To describe case studies using multiple methods of data collection, including next-generation tablets, and consider their various advantages and disadvantages. MATERIALS AND Methods: We reviewed 5 modern case studies using primary data collection, using methods ranging from paper to next-generation tablet computers. We performed semistructured telephone interviews with each project, which considered factors relevant to data collection. We address specific issues with workflow, implementation and security for these different methods, and identify differences in implementation that led to different technology considerations for each case study. Results and Discussion: There remain multiple methods for primary data collection, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Two recent methods are electronic health record templates and next-generation tablet computers. Electronic health record templates can link data directly to medical records, but are notably difficult to use. Current tablet computers are substantially different from previous technologies with regard to user familiarity and software cost. The use of cloud-based storage for tablet computers, however, creates a specific challenge for clinical research that must be considered but can be overcome.

  • Clinical research
  • Primary data collection
  • Tablet computers

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  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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  • 10.1097/MLR.0b013e318259c1e7

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  • Handheld Computers Medicine & Life Sciences 100%
  • data collection method Social Sciences 77%
  • research method Social Sciences 56%
  • electronics Social Sciences 24%
  • Electronic Health Records Medicine & Life Sciences 20%
  • Technology Medicine & Life Sciences 19%
  • Cloud Computing Medicine & Life Sciences 17%
  • Medical records Social Sciences 14%

T1 - Research data collection methods

T2 - From paper to tablet computers

AU - Wilcox, Adam B.

AU - Gallagher, Kathleen D.

AU - Boden-Albala, Bernadette

AU - Bakken, Suzanne R.

PY - 2012/7

Y1 - 2012/7

N2 - Background: Primary data collection is a critical activity in clinical research. Even with significant advances in technical capabilities, clear benefits of use, and even user preferences for using electronic systems for collecting primary data, paper-based data collection is still common in clinical research settings. However, with recent developments in both clinical research and tablet computer technology, the comparative advantages and disadvantages of data collection methods should be determined. Objective: To describe case studies using multiple methods of data collection, including next-generation tablets, and consider their various advantages and disadvantages. MATERIALS AND Methods: We reviewed 5 modern case studies using primary data collection, using methods ranging from paper to next-generation tablet computers. We performed semistructured telephone interviews with each project, which considered factors relevant to data collection. We address specific issues with workflow, implementation and security for these different methods, and identify differences in implementation that led to different technology considerations for each case study. Results and Discussion: There remain multiple methods for primary data collection, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Two recent methods are electronic health record templates and next-generation tablet computers. Electronic health record templates can link data directly to medical records, but are notably difficult to use. Current tablet computers are substantially different from previous technologies with regard to user familiarity and software cost. The use of cloud-based storage for tablet computers, however, creates a specific challenge for clinical research that must be considered but can be overcome.

AB - Background: Primary data collection is a critical activity in clinical research. Even with significant advances in technical capabilities, clear benefits of use, and even user preferences for using electronic systems for collecting primary data, paper-based data collection is still common in clinical research settings. However, with recent developments in both clinical research and tablet computer technology, the comparative advantages and disadvantages of data collection methods should be determined. Objective: To describe case studies using multiple methods of data collection, including next-generation tablets, and consider their various advantages and disadvantages. MATERIALS AND Methods: We reviewed 5 modern case studies using primary data collection, using methods ranging from paper to next-generation tablet computers. We performed semistructured telephone interviews with each project, which considered factors relevant to data collection. We address specific issues with workflow, implementation and security for these different methods, and identify differences in implementation that led to different technology considerations for each case study. Results and Discussion: There remain multiple methods for primary data collection, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Two recent methods are electronic health record templates and next-generation tablet computers. Electronic health record templates can link data directly to medical records, but are notably difficult to use. Current tablet computers are substantially different from previous technologies with regard to user familiarity and software cost. The use of cloud-based storage for tablet computers, however, creates a specific challenge for clinical research that must be considered but can be overcome.

KW - Clinical research

KW - Primary data collection

KW - Tablet computers

UR -

UR -

U2 - 10.1097/MLR.0b013e318259c1e7

DO - 10.1097/MLR.0b013e318259c1e7

M3 - Article

C2 - 22692261

AN - SCOPUS:84862281001

SN - 0025-7079

SP - S68-S73

JO - Medical care

JF - Medical care


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Overall Study Design

Participants, survey measures, mobile device sampling methods, data analysis, conclusions, young children’s use of smartphones and tablets.

POTENTIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: Dr Radesky is a consultant for and is on the Board of Directors of Melissa & Doug Toys and receives research support from Common Sense Media; the other authors have indicated they have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

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Jenny S. Radesky , Heidi M. Weeks , Rosa Ball , Alexandria Schaller , Samantha Yeo , Joke Durnez , Matthew Tamayo-Rios , Mollie Epstein , Heather Kirkorian , Sarah Coyne , Rachel Barr; Young Children’s Use of Smartphones and Tablets. Pediatrics July 2020; 146 (1): e20193518. 10.1542/peds.2019-3518

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Video Abstract

Child mobile device use is increasingly prevalent, but research is limited by parent-report survey methods that may not capture the complex ways devices are used. We aimed to implement mobile device sampling, a set of novel methods for objectively measuring child mobile device use.

We recruited 346 English-speaking parents and guardians of children aged 3 to 5 years to take part in a prospective cohort study of child media use. All interactions with participants were through e-mail, online surveys, and mobile device sampling; we used a passive-sensing application (Chronicle) in Android devices and screenshots of the battery feature in iOS devices. Baseline data were analyzed to describe usage behaviors and compare sampling output with parent-reported duration of use.

The sample comprised 126 Android users (35 tablets, 91 smartphones) and 220 iOS users (143 tablets, 77 smartphones); 35.0% of children had their own device. The most commonly used applications were YouTube, YouTube Kids, Internet browser, quick search or Siri, and streaming video services. Average daily usage among the 121 children with their own device was 115.3 minutes/day (SD 115.1; range 0.20–632.5) and was similar between Android and iOS devices. Compared with mobile device sampling output, most parents underestimated (35.7%) or overestimated (34.8%) their child’s use.

Mobile device sampling is an unobtrusive and accurate method for assessing mobile device use. Parent-reported duration of mobile device use in young children has low accuracy, and use of objective measures is needed in future research.

Previous studies of young children’s mobile device use rely on parent recall or time-use diaries, which may be inaccurate or carry high participant burden. No previous studies in children have harnessed application usage data already collected by mobile devices.

Mobile device sampling (passive sensing for Android and screenshots from iOS devices) is an acceptable and feasible objective method for assessing mobile device use. Parent-reported duration of their child’s mobile device use had low accuracy compared with objective output.

Children’s use of mobile and interactive media has increased rapidly over the past decade. 1   Recent estimates reveal that the majority of parents own smartphones, 2   on which they allow their children to play games or watch videos. Up to 75% of young children have their own tablets, 3   and infants are estimated to start handling mobile devices during the first year of life, 1   but research on modern media has been limited by a lack of precise measurement tools.

Research on traditional screen media, such as television, historically used parent recall of child media use duration to test associations with outcomes such as sleep problems, obesity, and externalizing behavior. 4   Similarly, studies of the benefits of educational television programming relied on parent recall and content analysis of linear, noninteractive programs. 5 , 6   As the proportion of time that children spend on mobile platforms increases, 1   media researchers are posed with a challenge of measuring on-demand, portable, and intermittent mobile device usage. 7 , 8   Participant recall accuracy of mobile device use may be low because exposure occurs in small bursts 8   (less likely to be remembered than longer interactions 9   ), and parents may find it difficult to monitor content when children use handheld devices individually. 10  

Mobile devices collect usage data that could feasibly be harnessed for the purposes of research studies. Analysis of various data streams (eg, accelerometer, Bluetooth, location) has been used in public health research to predict patterns of human behavior 11   but collects more data than is necessary for the purposes of media use measurement. In a few studies, researchers have used commercially available or prototype applications (apps) (ie, created by researchers) to test hypotheses in adults regarding mental health and smartphone use 12   or motivations for using different apps, 13   but no previous research has been conducted by using similar measures on the devices of children. Harnessing mobile data from children’s devices may provide more accurate data collection with lower participant and researcher burden.

Our objective for the current study was to implement novel mobile device sampling methods in a community-based sample of preschool-aged children to describe their mobile device usage and compare parent report of child use with mobile device sampling output. We describe the development of this method, important considerations during implementation, and types of variables that can be generated for research. On the basis of pilot research revealing that most of parents’ recall of their own mobile device use is inaccurate, 14   we hypothesized that most parents would be inaccurate in reporting their child’s mobile device use.

The Preschooler Tablet Study is a longitudinal cohort study ( Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant R21HD094051) in which associations between early childhood digital media use, emotion regulation, and executive functioning are examined. Data were collected through online surveys and e-mail communication with participants, mobile device sampling, and an online time-use diary completed by parents at baseline and at the 3- and 6-month follow-up. Data from the baseline data collection wave (August 2018 to May 2019) are included in the present article. The study was approved by the University of Michigan Institutional Review Board.

Parents of young children were recruited via flyers posted in community centers, preschools, child care centers, and pediatric clinics in southeast Michigan as well as our university’s online participant registry and social media advertisements. Interested parents who contacted the study team were e-mailed a link to an eligibility questionnaire. Eligibility criteria included the following: (1) the parent was the legal guardian of a 3- to 4.99-year-old child, (2) the parent lived with the child at least 5 days/week, (3) the parent understood English sufficiently to complete questionnaires and provide consent, and (4) the family owned at least one Android or iOS tablet or smartphone. Children did not need to regularly use mobile devices to be included in the study. Exclusion criteria included presence of child developmental delays, use of psychotropic medication, and the child’s mobile device being a Kindle or Amazon Fire ( n = 43 interested but excluded), which do not use the standard Android operating system.

Because all interactions with the research team were electronic, we anticipated a high rate of attrition. Of 487 parents who consented to take part in the study, 64 (13%) submitted no study data after providing informed consent and receiving electronic reminders.

After providing online consent for themselves and their child, parents were e-mailed study instructions and a link to online Research Electronic Data Capture 15 , 16   surveys, in which parents reported their child’s age, sex, race and/or ethnicity, preschool or child care enrollment, and prematurity; their own age, sex, educational attainment, marital status, and employment status; and household income and size (from which we calculated the income-to-needs ratio).

Parents then completed an abbreviated version (36 items) of the Media Assessment Qualtrics Survey, which is used to assess child, parent, and household media use practices. In this survey, parents were asked, “Thinking about a typical [weekday or weekend], how much time does your child spend using 1) an iPad, tablet, LeapPad, iTouch, or similar mobile device (not including a smartphone) and 2) a smartphone for things like texting, playing games, watching videos, or surfing the Internet (don’t count time spent talking on the phone)?” Responses were never, <30 minutes, 30 minutes to 1 hour, 1 to 2 hours, 2 to 3 hours, 3 to 4 hours, 4 to 5 hours, and >5 hours. Because mobile sampling included both weekdays and weekends, we created a weighted categorical variable that reflected parent estimates of their child’s usual smartphone or tablet use throughout the week.

During eligibility screening, parents indicated what type(s) of mobile device(s), if any, the child regularly had access to or used. If the child used >1 device, we sampled the device used more frequently and asked the parent to avoid letting the child play on other devices that week. We provided video and visual instructions specific for tracking the device on a study Web site (see Mobile Device Sampling Methods: Installation and Data Collection in the Supplemental Information ).

Android Devices

Android users were instructed to download a study app, Chronicle, from the Google Play store ( Supplemental Figs 1 and 2 ). The Chronicle app was developed by OpenLattice, Inc, in collaboration with the Comprehensive Assessment of Family Media Exposure Consortium. It queries the Google UsageStatsManager application programming interface (API), which provides data about app usage on all Android devices running version 5.0 or later and transmits data automatically to the OpenLattice platform. Chronicle was pilot tested on a range of Android devices in June 2018 to July 2018, which allowed app debugging to ensure accuracy by comparing handwritten usage logs with raw output.

In the informed consent document, parents were informed that Chronicle only collects app name, timestamp, and a masked device identification but does not collect personal information (eg, contacts, content of messages, Web sites viewed) and that data are stored in a secure server and not shared with third-party companies. After installing Chronicle, parents were e-mailed a unique link routing their app data to the research team on the OpenLattice platform. The app user interface is simple, only providing a timestamp of the last data upload (see Android Mobile Devices in the Supplemental Information ), and runs in the background with no need for user interaction. Data are continually collected locally on the device and uploaded every 15 minutes when connected to WiFi. After 9 days, participants were instructed to uninstall Chronicle after confirming that data had been uploaded that day (ie, in case the devices had been recently disconnected from WiFi). The study team then exported the Chronicle data file through the Chronicle Web application in comma-separated values (CSV) format and conducted data cleaning and processing steps as described in the Chronicle Data Cleaning Methods section of the Supplemental Information .

iOS Devices

For children who used an iPhone or iPad, we asked parents to take a screenshot of the device’s battery page (under “Settings”) 7 days after completing the surveys. Instructions for taking screenshots, including the specific buttons that need to be tapped to visualize app usage over the past 7 to 10 days, were provided via the study Web site (see Apple Mobile Devices in the Supplemental Information ; see also Supplemental Fig 3 ).

When parents sent screenshots that did not follow study instructions, the study team responded by e-mail the same day, offering clarification on screenshot methods and requesting that new ones be sent. However, if screenshots were still incorrectly taken at this point, they were flagged for potential errors and manually inspected before inclusion in final data sets. Research assistants manually entered all screenshot data (app name, number of minutes) into spreadsheets.

Shared Devices

At the end of the sampling period, parents were asked whether the device had been shared with any other family members that week. If the parents responded yes (70.6% of Android users; 61.8% of iOS users), they completed a data form listing the names of the apps their child used that week. We created a subset of data files to include only the apps that children used during the sampling period.

App Category Coding

We developed a coding scheme to categorize apps on the basis of app store labels (eg, educational, age category), video chat, YouTube, streaming video, and other common categories such as eBooks or music (see Supplemental Table 4 for coding scheme; interrater reliability = 0.72–0.94).

First, for all children with complete mobile device data ( n = 346), we analyzed differences in sociodemographic characteristics by operating system and shared or unshared status. We calculated frequencies of the most commonly played apps and the number of different apps played by each child during the sampling week.

For children with their own, unshared mobile Android or iOS device ( n = 121), we created summary variables representing each child’s average daily duration of device use, average daily duration of app categories, and average daily duration of specific apps played during the sampling period. We chose not to calculate daily duration from shared mobile devices because of the risk of overestimating duration of apps such as YouTube, Safari, or Netflix, which are commonly used by both children and parents.

For children with unshared Android devices ( n = 37), whose output provides date and timestamps, we additionally calculated average usage by day of the week, proportion of days the child used the device, and average number of daily pickups. For illustrative purposes, we plotted the average hourly app category usage of 6 child participants (4 with heavy use, 2 with lighter use) to demonstrate diurnal visualizations of mobile device usage.

Finally, we calculated accuracy of parent-reported mobile device use by determining if each child’s average daily usage (based on mobile sampling output) fell within the weighted parent-reported time category. If parent report was inaccurate, we calculated the difference between actual daily usage and the upper or lower bounds of the parent-reported category.

All processing of raw timestamped data into user logs was performed in Python, 17   all mobile device sampling analyses were conducted by using data.table in R 3.5.2, 18 , 19   and analyses of demographics and comparison of parent report with sampling output were conducted by using SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute, Inc, Cary, NC). 20  

Of the 423 parents who provided any data, 58 (13%) were excluded because of incomplete mobile device data. Reasons for missing mobile device data included the following: could not ( n = 7) or decided not to ( n = 2) install Chronicle, <2 days of data appeared on server (usually because of server maintenance; n = 13), failed to send iOS screenshots ( n = 20), screenshots were incorrect ( n = 4) or blank ( n = 4), and the app list for shared devices was not submitted ( n = 8). Participants with missing mobile device data had no significant sociodemographic differences compared with included participants. In addition, 19 children were reported to have never used mobile devices at baseline, so mobile device sampling was not performed; these children were more likely to have parents with higher educational attainment (χ 2 test; P = .02).

Characteristics of the full sample ( N = 346) and the unshared device subsample ( n = 121) are shown in Table 1 . Participants comprised 126 Android users (35 tablets, 91 smartphones) and 220 iOS users (143 tablets, 77 smartphones). Children with iOS devices were more likely to have higher-income families (2-sample Wilcoxon rank test; P < .0001), married parents (χ 2 test; P = .03), and parents with higher educational attainment (χ 2 test; P < .0001).

Participant Demographic Characteristics and Mobile Device Usage

GED, general equivalency diploma; ITN, income-to-needs ratio; —, not applicable.

ITN of 1 = 100% of the federal poverty level for the family’s size; ITN of 2 = 200% of the federal poverty level, etc.

In the full sample, children used between 1 and 85 different apps over the course of the sampling week; the 20 most commonly played apps are listed in Table 2 .

Most Commonly Played Apps Among 346 Preschool-Aged Children Who Underwent Mobile Device Sampling for 1 Week

PBS, Public Broadcasting Service.

Average daily usage among the 121 children with their own tablet ( n = 100) or smartphone ( n = 21) was 115.3 minutes (SD 115.1; range 0.20–632.5) and was similar between Android (117.7; SD 143.2) and iOS (114.2; SD 101.3) users. More than half (59.5%) of children used their device for an average of ≥1 hour/day, including 18 (14.9%) who averaged ≥4 hours/day ( Table 1 ).

Average daily use of the most commonly played apps by children with unshared devices is shown in Table 3 ; YouTube, YouTube Kids, and streaming video services revealed the highest daily duration, whereas the browser and Quick Search Box or Siri were accessed by a large number of children but used for briefer periods of time.

Average Daily Duration of Most Commonly Played Apps Among 121 Preschool-Aged Children With Their Own Mobile Devices

n/a, not applicable.

Includes the Samsung video app and iOS video app.

Among Android users, average pickup frequency was 3.82 per day (SD 5.48), children used devices on most (69.0%) days of sampling (SD 27.1%; range 25%–100%), and duration was longest on Fridays and Saturdays ( Supplemental Fig 4 ). Example data visualizations of average usage of different app categories (eg, educational apps, streaming video) and diurnal patterns for specific participants are available in Supplemental Figs 5 and 6 , respectively.

Of 115 participants with unshared devices and complete parent-report data, 41 (35.7%) parents underestimated, 34 (29.6%) were accurate, and 40 (34.8%) overestimated their child’s device use. Accuracy did not vary by operating system (Android 25.7% versus iOS 31.3%; P = .49). For inaccurate reporters, actual usage was on average 69.7 minutes (SD 67.5) above or below the parent-reported category bounds (median 50.7; range 0.86–332.5 minutes). Parents were more likely to overreport when their child’s average usage was <1 hour/day and underreport if their child’s average usage was ≥1 hour/day (χ 2 test; P = .001).

This is the first study to use an objective form of mobile device–based data collection (a method we term “mobile device sampling”) to examine young children’s tablet and smartphone usage. We found high variability in daily mobile device usage in children with their own smartphones or tablets, with ∼15% of children averaging ≥4 hours per day. The most commonly used apps were YouTube and YouTube Kids, followed by browsers, the camera and photograph gallery, and video streaming services such as Netflix.

Compared with our previous pilot research in which we used passive sensing in parents, 14   we had significantly lower rates of missing data when using the Chronicle app for Android and screenshot-based data collection for iOS. However, we had an ∼10% missing data rate for Chronicle, which we are addressing by (1) screening participants to ensure Chronicle compatibility before enrollment, (2) developing new features on the OpenLattice platform to increase stability and reliability of data uploads, and (3) providing in-person installation or phone troubleshooting.

Strengths of this approach include highly reliable data because the Google usage statistics API is maintained by Google and used by thousands of vendors. Participating parents found the mobile sampling methods highly acceptable and were informed of how their child’s data would be collected, handled, and destroyed.

A main limitation of our current app is that it cannot identify the user of shared devices, which is important in early childhood when many children do not have their own devices. However, our subset approach allowed us to generate a list of apps used by children who share mobile devices with family members that can be coded for educational value, 21   presence of advertising, 22   or age-appropriate content. For example, we documented that preschool-aged children use YouTube (36.7% of our sample), general audience apps such as Cookie Jam and Candy Crush (30.6% of our sample), gambling apps such as Cashman, and violent apps such as Terrorist Shooter, Flip the Gun, and Granny, which are intended for use by teenagers and adults. These findings also have implications for child privacy because general audience apps and platforms may not place restrictions on the data they collect or distribute to third-party advertising companies. 23  

We found low accuracy of parent-reported mobile device duration compared with mobile sampling output, which is consistent with our previous research in parents. 24   Inaccurate parents showed an average error of >60 minutes compared with their child’s actual daily device use. We therefore suggest that mobile device sampling may be an important future data collection tool for pediatric, adolescent, or adult research. For example, by using Chronicle, it is possible to define variables such as the number of checks of specific apps (eg, social media) per hour, usage during time periods when family meals or routines might occur, or overnight usage. At present, timestamped data are not available for iOS, and data transfer from screenshots is labor intensive; development of similar iOS tracking tools will therefore be necessary to fully assess children’s media landscapes. Mobile sampling will need to be used in combination with methods that capture media use on other platforms (eg, television, video game consoles) and other sensors that detect whether the user is awake (eg, Fitbit) or interacting with others (eg, LENA).

Limitations of our overall study design are worthy of mention. Use of online recruitment allowed for rapid enrollment of multiple families simultaneously because we did not have to schedule study visits, but it also led to higher rates of attrition immediately after enrollment. Our sample was more highly educated and had lower racial and/or ethnic diversity than the general population; future research in non–English-speaking populations is needed once our app interface is updated for other languages. Parents were aware of their child’s mobile device usage being tracked, which may have changed their usage behavior. Children may have used other mobile devices during the sampling period, so our results represent a minimum estimate of their true usage. Our app categorization approach was also limited by the fact that apps commonly disappear from app stores and may no longer appear when searched for several months later.

We describe development of a novel mobile device sampling method in which implementation allowed for description of the smartphone and tablet use behaviors of preschool-aged children. Given the limitations of parent report, such objective measurement tools must be developed and refined so that health research (and evidence-based guidelines) can reflect the complex ways modern media are used.

Dr Radesky conceptualized the data collection methods, designed the cohort study, supervised data collection, drafted the initial manuscript, and reviewed and revised the manuscript; Dr Weeks performed the data analysis and critically reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content; Ms Ball, Ms Schaller, and Ms Yeo coordinated and conducted data collection, performed application coding, and reviewed and revised the manuscript; Dr Durnez, Mr Tomayo-Rios, and Ms Epstein developed and piloted the passive-sensing data collection methods, contributed to the data analysis, and reviewed and revised the manuscript; Drs Kirkorian, Coyne, and Barr helped develop the passive-sensing data collection methods and reviewed and revised the manuscript; and all authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

FUNDING: Funded by Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development Inc for development of the passive-sensing technology and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (grant 1R21HD094051) for the Preschooler Tablet Study. Research Electronic Data Capture and recruitment support was provided through the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (Clinical and Translational Science Award UL1TR002240). Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

COMPANION PAPER: A companion to this article can be found online at .

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April 11, 2013

15 min read

The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens

E-readers and tablets are becoming more popular as such technologies improve, but research suggests that reading on paper still boasts unique advantages

By Ferris Jabr

research paper on tablet computers

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In a viral YouTube video from October 2011 a one-year-old girl sweeps her fingers across an iPad's touchscreen, shuffling groups of icons. In the following scenes she appears to pinch, swipe and prod the pages of paper magazines as though they too were screens. When nothing happens, she pushes against her leg, confirming that her finger works just fine—or so a title card would have us believe. The girl's father, Jean-Louis Constanza , presents "A Magazine Is an iPad That Does Not Work" as naturalistic observation—a Jane Goodall among the chimps moment—that reveals a generational transition. "Technology codes our minds," he writes in the video's description. "Magazines are now useless and impossible to understand, for digital natives"—that is, for people who have been interacting with digital technologies from a very early age. Perhaps his daughter really did expect the paper magazines to respond the same way an iPad would. Or maybe she had no expectations at all—maybe she just wanted to touch the magazines. Babies touch everything . Young children who have never seen a tablet like the iPad or an e-reader like the Kindle will still reach out and run their fingers across the pages of a paper book; they will jab at an illustration they like; heck, they will even taste the corner of a book. Today's so-called digital natives still interact with a mix of paper magazines and books, as well as tablets, smartphones and e-readers; using one kind of technology does not preclude them from understanding another. Nevertheless, the video brings into focus an important question: How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read? How reading on screens differs from reading on paper is relevant not just to the youngest among us , but to just about everyone who reads—to anyone who routinely switches between working long hours in front of a computer at the office and leisurely reading paper magazines and books at home; to people who have embraced e-readers for their convenience and portability, but admit that for some reason they still prefer reading on paper; and to those who have already vowed to forgo tree pulp entirely. As digital texts and technologies become more prevalent, we gain new and more mobile ways of reading—but are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly? How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper? Should we be worried about dividing our attention between pixels and ink or is the validity of such concerns paper-thin? Since at least the 1980s researchers in many different fields—including psychology, computer engineering, and library and information science—have investigated such questions in more than one hundred published studies. The matter is by no means settled. Before 1992 most studies concluded that people read slower, less accurately and less comprehensively on screens than on paper. Studies published since the early 1990s , however, have produced more inconsistent results: a slight majority has confirmed earlier conclusions, but almost as many have found few significant differences in reading speed or comprehension between paper and screens. And recent surveys suggest that although most people still prefer paper—especially when reading intensively—attitudes are changing as tablets and e-reading technology improve and reading digital books for facts and fun becomes more common. In the U.S., e-books currently make up between 15 and 20 percent of all trade book sales. Even so, evidence from laboratory experiments , polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. A parallel line of research focuses on people's attitudes toward different kinds of media. Whether they realize it or not, many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper.

"There is physicality in reading," says developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University, "maybe even more than we want to think about as we lurch into digital reading—as we move forward perhaps with too little reflection. I would like to preserve the absolute best of older forms, but know when to use the new." Navigating textual landscapes Understanding how reading on paper is different from reading on screens requires some explanation of how the brain interprets written language. We often think of reading as a cerebral activity concerned with the abstract—with thoughts and ideas, tone and themes, metaphors and motifs. As far as our brains are concerned, however, text is a tangible part of the physical world we inhabit. In fact, the brain essentially regards letters as physical objects because it does not really have another way of understanding them. As Wolf explains in her book Proust and the Squid , we are not born with brain circuits dedicated to reading. After all, we did not invent writing until relatively recently in our evolutionary history, around the fourth millennium B.C. So the human brain improvises a brand-new circuit for reading by weaving together various regions of neural tissue devoted to other abilities, such as spoken language, motor coordination and vision. Some of these repurposed brain regions are specialized for object recognition —they are networks of neurons that help us instantly distinguish an apple from an orange, for example, yet classify both as fruit. Just as we learn that certain features—roundness, a twiggy stem, smooth skin—characterize an apple, we learn to recognize each letter by its particular arrangement of lines, curves and hollow spaces. Some of the earliest forms of writing, such as Sumerian cuneiform , began as characters shaped like the objects they represented —a person's head, an ear of barley, a fish. Some researchers see traces of these origins in modern alphabets: C as crescent moon, S as snake. Especially intricate characters—such as Chinese hanzi and Japanese kanji —activate motor regions in the brain involved in forming those characters on paper: The brain literally goes through the motions of writing when reading, even if the hands are empty. Researchers recently discovered that the same thing happens in a milder way when some people read cursive. Beyond treating individual letters as physical objects, the human brain may also perceive a text in its entirety as a kind of physical landscape. When we read, we construct a mental representation of the text in which meaning is anchored to structure. The exact nature of such representations remains unclear, but they are likely similar to the mental maps we create of terrain—such as mountains and trails—and of man-made physical spaces, such as apartments and offices. Both anecdotally and in published studies , people report that when trying to locate a particular piece of written information they often remember where in the text it appeared. We might recall that we passed the red farmhouse near the start of the trail before we started climbing uphill through the forest; in a similar way, we remember that we read about Mr. Darcy rebuffing Elizabeth Bennett on the bottom of the left-hand page in one of the earlier chapters. In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there's a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text. In contrast, most screens, e-readers, smartphones and tablets interfere with intuitive navigation of a text and inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds. A reader of digital text might scroll through a seamless stream of words, tap forward one page at a time or use the search function to immediately locate a particular phrase—but it is difficult to see any one passage in the context of the entire text. As an analogy, imagine if Google Maps allowed people to navigate street by individual street, as well as to teleport to any specific address, but prevented them from zooming out to see a neighborhood, state or country. Although e-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad re-create pagination—sometimes complete with page numbers, headers and illustrations—the screen only displays a single virtual page: it is there and then it is gone. Instead of hiking the trail yourself, the trees, rocks and moss move past you in flashes with no trace of what came before and no way to see what lies ahead. "The implicit feel of where you are in a physical book turns out to be more important than we realized," says Abigail Sellen of Microsoft Research Cambridge in England and co-author of The Myth of the Paperless Office . "Only when you get an e-book do you start to miss it. I don't think e-book manufacturers have thought enough about how you might visualize where you are in a book." At least a few studies suggest that by limiting the way people navigate texts, screens impair comprehension. In a study published in January 2013 Anne Mangen of the University of Stavanger in Norway and her colleagues asked 72 10th-grade students of similar reading ability to study one narrative and one expository text, each about 1,500 words in length. Half the students read the texts on paper and half read them in pdf files on computers with 15-inch liquid-crystal display (LCD) monitors. Afterward, students completed reading-comprehension tests consisting of multiple-choice and short-answer questions, during which they had access to the texts. Students who read the texts on computers performed a little worse than students who read on paper. Based on observations during the study, Mangen thinks that students reading pdf files had a more difficult time finding particular information when referencing the texts. Volunteers on computers could only scroll or click through the pdfs one section at a time, whereas students reading on paper could hold the text in its entirety in their hands and quickly switch between different pages. Because of their easy navigability, paper books and documents may be better suited to absorption in a text. "The ease with which you can find out the beginning, end and everything inbetween and the constant connection to your path, your progress in the text, might be some way of making it less taxing cognitively, so you have more free capacity for comprehension," Mangen says. Supporting this research, surveys indicate that screens and e-readers interfere with two other important aspects of navigating texts: serendipity and a sense of control. People report that they enjoy flipping to a previous section of a paper book when a sentence surfaces a memory of something they read earlier, for example, or quickly scanning ahead on a whim. People also like to have as much control over a text as possible—to highlight with chemical ink, easily write notes to themselves in the margins as well as deform the paper however they choose. Because of these preferences—and because getting away from multipurpose screens improves concentration—people consistently say that when they really want to dive into a text, they read it on paper. In a 2011 survey of graduate students at National Taiwan University, the majority reported browsing a few paragraphs online before printing out the whole text for more in-depth reading. A 2008 survey of millennials (people born between 1980 and the early 2000s) at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island concluded that, "when it comes to reading a book, even they prefer good, old-fashioned print". And in a 2003 study conducted at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, nearly 80 percent of 687 surveyed students preferred to read text on paper as opposed to on a screen in order to "understand it with clarity". Surveys and consumer reports also suggest that the sensory experiences typically associated with reading—especially tactile experiences—matter to people more than one might assume. Text on a computer, an e-reader and—somewhat ironically—on any touch-screen device is far more intangible than text on paper. Whereas a paper book is made from pages of printed letters fixed in a particular arrangement, the text that appears on a screen is not part of the device's hardware—it is an ephemeral image. When reading a paper book, one can feel the paper and ink and smooth or fold a page with one's fingers; the pages make a distinctive sound when turned; and underlining or highlighting a sentence with ink permanently alters the paper's chemistry. So far, digital texts have not satisfyingly replicated this kind of tactility (although some companies are innovating, at least with keyboards ). Paper books also have an immediately discernible size, shape and weight. We might refer to a hardcover edition of War and Peace as a hefty tome or a paperback Heart of Darkness as a slim volume. In contrast, although a digital text has a length—which is sometimes represented with a scroll or progress bar—it has no obvious shape or thickness. An e-reader always weighs the same, regardless of whether you are reading Proust's magnum opus or one of Hemingway's short stories. Some researchers have found that these discrepancies create enough " haptic dissonance " to dissuade some people from using e-readers. People expect books to look, feel and even smell a certain way; when they do not, reading sometimes becomes less enjoyable or even unpleasant. For others, the convenience of a slim portable e-reader outweighs any attachment they might have to the feel of paper books. Exhaustive reading Although many old and recent studies conclude that people understand what they read on paper more thoroughly than what they read on screens, the differences are often small. Some experiments, however, suggest that researchers should look not just at immediate reading comprehension, but also at long-term memory. In a 2003 study Kate Garland of the University of Leicester and her colleagues asked 50 British college students to read study material from an introductory economics course either on a computer monitor or in a spiral-bound booklet. After 20 minutes of reading Garland and her colleagues quizzed the students with multiple-choice questions. Students scored equally well regardless of the medium, but differed in how they remembered the information. Psychologists distinguish between remembering something—which is to recall a piece of information along with contextual details, such as where, when and how one learned it—and knowing something, which is feeling that something is true without remembering how one learned the information. Generally, remembering is a weaker form of memory that is likely to fade unless it is converted into more stable, long-term memory that is "known" from then on. When taking the quiz, volunteers who had read study material on a monitor relied much more on remembering than on knowing, whereas students who read on paper depended equally on remembering and knowing. Garland and her colleagues think that students who read on paper learned the study material more thoroughly more quickly; they did not have to spend a lot of time searching their minds for information from the text, trying to trigger the right memory—they often just knew the answers. Other researchers have suggested that people comprehend less when they read on a screen because screen-based reading is more physically and mentally taxing than reading on paper. E-ink is easy on the eyes because it reflects ambient light just like a paper book, but computer screens, smartphones and tablets like the iPad shine light directly into people's faces. Depending on the model of the device, glare, pixilation and flickers can also tire the eyes. LCDs are certainly gentler on eyes than their predecessor, cathode-ray tubes (CRT), but prolonged reading on glossy self-illuminated screens can cause eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision. Such symptoms are so common among people who read on screens—affecting around 70 percent of people who work long hours in front of computers—that the American Optometric Association officially recognizes computer vision syndrome . Erik Wästlund of Karlstad University in Sweden has conducted some particularly rigorous research on whether paper or screens demand more physical and cognitive resources. In one of his experiments 72 volunteers completed the Higher Education Entrance Examination READ test—a 30-minute, Swedish-language reading-comprehension exam consisting of multiple-choice questions about five texts averaging 1,000 words each. People who took the test on a computer scored lower and reported higher levels of stress and tiredness than people who completed it on paper. In another set of experiments 82 volunteers completed the READ test on computers, either as a paginated document or as a continuous piece of text. Afterward researchers assessed the students' attention and working memory, which is a collection of mental talents that allow people to temporarily store and manipulate information in their minds. Volunteers had to quickly close a series of pop-up windows, for example, sort virtual cards or remember digits that flashed on a screen. Like many cognitive abilities, working memory is a finite resource that diminishes with exertion. Although people in both groups performed equally well on the READ test, those who had to scroll through the continuous text did not do as well on the attention and working-memory tests. Wästlund thinks that scrolling—which requires a reader to consciously focus on both the text and how they are moving it—drains more mental resources than turning or clicking a page, which are simpler and more automatic gestures. A 2004 study conducted at the University of Central Florida reached similar conclusions. Attitude adjustments An emerging collection of studies emphasizes that in addition to screens possibly taxing people's attention more than paper, people do not always bring as much mental effort to screens in the first place. Subconsciously, many people may think of reading on a computer or tablet as a less serious affair than reading on paper. Based on a detailed 2005 survey of 113 people in northern California, Ziming Liu of San Jose State University concluded that people reading on screens take a lot of shortcuts—they spend more time browsing, scanning and hunting for keywords compared with people reading on paper, and are more likely to read a document once, and only once. When reading on screens, people seem less inclined to engage in what psychologists call metacognitive learning regulation—strategies such as setting specific goals, rereading difficult sections and checking how much one has understood along the way. In a 2011 experiment at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, college students took multiple-choice exams about expository texts either on computers or on paper. Researchers limited half the volunteers to a meager seven minutes of study time; the other half could review the text for as long as they liked. When under pressure to read quickly, students using computers and paper performed equally well. When managing their own study time, however, volunteers using paper scored about 10 percentage points higher. Presumably, students using paper approached the exam with a more studious frame of mind than their screen-reading peers, and more effectively directed their attention and working memory. Perhaps, then, any discrepancies in reading comprehension between paper and screens will shrink as people's attitudes continue to change. The star of "A Magazine Is an iPad That Does Not Work" is three-and-a-half years old today and no longer interacts with paper magazines as though they were touchscreens, her father says. Perhaps she and her peers will grow up without the subtle bias against screens that seems to lurk in the minds of older generations. In current research for Microsoft, Sellen has learned that many people do not feel much ownership of e-books because of their impermanence and intangibility: "They think of using an e-book, not owning an e-book," she says. Participants in her studies say that when they really like an electronic book, they go out and get the paper version. This reminds Sellen of people's early opinions of digital music, which she has also studied. Despite initial resistance, people love curating, organizing and sharing digital music today. Attitudes toward e-books may transition in a similar way, especially if e-readers and tablets allow more sharing and social interaction than they currently do. Books on the Kindle can only be loaned once , for example. To date, many engineers, designers and user-interface experts have worked hard to make reading on an e-reader or tablet as close to reading on paper as possible. E-ink resembles chemical ink and the simple layout of the Kindle's screen looks like a page in a paperback. Likewise, Apple's iBooks attempts to simulate the overall aesthetic of paper books, including somewhat realistic page-turning. Jaejeung Kim of KAIST Institute of Information Technology Convergence in South Korea and his colleagues have designed an innovative and unreleased interface that makes iBooks seem primitive. When using their interface, one can see the many individual pages one has read on the left side of the tablet and all the unread pages on the right side, as if holding a paperback in one's hands. A reader can also flip bundles of pages at a time with a flick of a finger. But why, one could ask, are we working so hard to make reading with new technologies like tablets and e-readers so similar to the experience of reading on the very ancient technology that is paper? Why not keep paper and evolve screen-based reading into something else entirely? Screens obviously offer readers experiences that paper cannot. Scrolling may not be the ideal way to navigate a text as long and dense as Moby Dick , but the New York Times , Washington Post , ESPN and other media outlets have created beautiful, highly visual articles that depend entirely on scrolling and could not appear in print in the same way. Some Web comics and infographics turn scrolling into a strength rather than a weakness. Similarly, Robin Sloan has pioneered the tap essay for mobile devices. The immensely popular interactive Scale of the Universe tool could not have been made on paper in any practical way. New e-publishing companies like Atavist offer tablet readers long-form journalism with embedded interactive graphics, maps, timelines, animations and sound tracks. And some writers are pairing up with computer programmers to produce ever more sophisticated interactive fiction and nonfiction in which one's choices determine what one reads, hears and sees next. When it comes to intensively reading long pieces of plain text, paper and ink may still have the advantage. But text is not the only way to read.


Study shows stronger brain activity after writing on paper than on tablet or smartphone

Unique, complex information in analog methods likely gives brain more details to trigger memory.

A study of Japanese university students and recent graduates has revealed that writing on physical paper can lead to more brain activity when remembering the information an hour later. Researchers say that the unique, complex, spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper is likely what leads to improved memory.

"Actually, paper is more advanced and useful compared to electronic documents because paper contains more one-of-a-kind information for stronger memory recall," said Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai, a neuroscientist at the University of Tokyo and corresponding author of the research recently published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience . The research was completed with collaborators from the NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting.

Contrary to the popular belief that digital tools increase efficiency, volunteers who used paper completed the note-taking task about 25% faster than those who used digital tablets or smartphones.

Although volunteers wrote by hand both with pen and paper or stylus and digital tablet, researchers say paper notebooks contain more complex spatial information than digital paper. Physical paper allows for tangible permanence, irregular strokes, and uneven shape, like folded corners. In contrast, digital paper is uniform, has no fixed position when scrolling, and disappears when you close the app.

"Our take-home message is to use paper notebooks for information we need to learn or memorize," said Sakai.

In the study, a total of 48 volunteers read a fictional conversation between characters discussing their plans for two months in the near future, including 14 different class times, assignment due dates and personal appointments. Researchers performed pre-test analyses to ensure that the volunteers, all 18-29 years old and recruited from university campuses or NTT offices, were equally sorted into three groups based on memory skills, personal preference for digital or analog methods, gender, age and other aspects.

Volunteers then recorded the fictional schedule using a paper datebook and pen, a calendar app on a digital tablet and a stylus, or a calendar app on a large smartphone and a touch-screen keyboard. There was no time limit and volunteers were asked to record the fictional events in the same way as they would for their real-life schedules, without spending extra time to memorize the schedule.

After one hour, including a break and an interference task to distract them from thinking about the calendar, volunteers answered a range of simple (When is the assignment due?) and complex (Which is the earlier due date for the assignments?) multiple choice questions to test their memory of the schedule. While they completed the test, volunteers were inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, which measures blood flow around the brain. This is a technique called functional MRI (fMRI), and increased blood flow observed in a specific region of the brain is a sign of increased neuronal activity in that area.

Participants who used a paper datebook filled in the calendar within about 11 minutes. Tablet users took 14 minutes and smartphone users took about 16 minutes. Volunteers who used analog methods in their personal life were just as slow at using the devices as volunteers who regularly use digital tools, so researchers are confident that the difference in speed was related to memorization or associated encoding in the brain, not just differences in the habitual use of the tools.

Volunteers who used analog methods scored better than other volunteers only on simple test questions. However, researchers say that the brain activation data revealed significant differences.

Volunteers who used paper had more brain activity in areas associated with language, imaginary visualization, and in the hippocampus -- an area known to be important for memory and navigation. Researchers say that the activation of the hippocampus indicates that analog methods contain richer spatial details that can be recalled and navigated in the mind's eye.

"Digital tools have uniform scrolling up and down and standardized arrangement of text and picture size, like on a webpage. But if you remember a physical textbook printed on paper, you can close your eyes and visualize the photo one-third of the way down on the left-side page, as well as the notes you added in the bottom margin," Sakai explained.

Researchers say that personalizing digital documents by highlighting, underlining, circling, drawing arrows, handwriting color-coded notes in the margins, adding virtual sticky notes, or other types of unique mark-ups can mimic analog-style spatial enrichment that may enhance memory.

Although they have no data from younger volunteers, researchers suspect that the difference in brain activation between analog and digital methods is likely to be stronger in younger people.

"High school students' brains are still developing and are so much more sensitive than adult brains," said Sakai.

Although the current research focused on learning and memorization, the researchers encourage using paper for creative pursuits as well.

"It is reasonable that one's creativity will likely become more fruitful if prior knowledge is stored with stronger learning and more precisely retrieved from memory. For art, composing music, or other creative works, I would emphasize the use of paper instead of digital methods," said Sakai.

  • Intelligence
  • Educational Psychology
  • K-12 Education
  • Neuroscience
  • Learning Disorders
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces
  • Memory bias
  • Social cognition
  • Left-handed
  • Memory-prediction framework
  • Limbic system

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Tokyo . Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Keita Umejima, Takuya Ibaraki, Takahiro Yamazaki, Kuniyoshi L. Sakai. Paper Notebooks vs. Mobile Devices: Brain Activation Differences During Memory Retrieval . Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience , 2021; 15 DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2021.634158

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The Best Tablets

A 9th-generation iPad, shown on an orange background with a stylus and books shown to the side.

By Wirecutter Staff

After hundreds of hours of research and testing over the past seven years, we think Apple’s 9th-generation iPad is the best all-around tablet, with all the performance and features most people need for watching video, browsing the internet, and staying on top of email and social media feeds. But we also have recommendations for people who want an Android tablet, a basic ebook reader, or a more powerful tablet for gaming, for handling design and creative tasks, or for replacing a laptop computer.

The research

The best all-around tablet: apple ipad (9th generation), an upgrade for multitaskers and creatives: apple ipad pro (m2), the best android tablet: google pixel tablet, a budget tablet for media: amazon fire hd 8, the best ebook reader: amazon kindle, what to look forward to, what about the microsoft surface (and other windows tablets and convertibles).

A 9th generation Apple iPad.

Apple iPad (9th generation)

The best tablet for most people.

The standard iPad is fast, easy to use, and compatible with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, and it offers the features most tablet users need.

Buying Options

Who this is for: You want a great all-around tablet that can handle pretty much any task.

Why we like it: Although this isn’t the newest version of the Apple iPad, it’s still the best tablet for most people thanks to great hardware, an easy-to-use operating system, and a huge library of quality apps, even if you normally use Android on your phone or Windows on your computer. iOS also receives frequent updates—including prompt security updates—which isn’t something you can say of any modern Android tablet.

In 2022, Apple released the 10th-generation iPad, but it costs $120 more for an experience that’s very similar to what you get from the 9th-generation version. The 9th-generation 10.2-inch iPad is still the best tablet for most people because it offers the best balance of price and performance, it has a large screen, and it’s compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil stylus and Apple Smart Keyboard. The standard 64 GB model should be good enough if you plan to use your iPad mostly for streaming music and video, reading, browsing the internet, and playing casual games, but you may want to upgrade to the 256 GB model if you plan to use yours to play graphically intense games or download lots of media.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The 9th-generation iPad is built with a gap between the LCD panel and the front glass, making interactions with the Apple Pencil slightly less responsive. You have to upgrade to the iPad Air if you want an iPad with a faster M1 processor and support for the second-gen Apple Pencil.

For more on the 9th-generation iPad and how it compares to other iPad models, read our full guide to Apple’s iPad lineup .

The Apple iPad Pro (11-inch, M2) connected to a compatible keyboard and displaying the home screen.

Apple iPad Pro (11-inch, M2, 256 GB)

For pro-level performance and a massive screen.

This iPad has a bright, sharp screen with accurate color that’s better for multitasking or serious creative work such as digital illustration, writing, or editing photos, audio, and video.

Who this is for: You want the best possible performance for viewing and editing photos and video, multitasking, and other tasks you’d normally do with a laptop.

Why we like it:  For most multitasking and serious creative work, the iPad Pro is the best option. It has a slim, uniform bezel that wraps around the entire screen, making it feel equally natural whether you use it in landscape or portrait orientation—a design choice that makes it stand out from competitors. It’s great for working with photos and as a canvas for artists who frequently make use of the second-generation Apple Pencil.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Apple advertises the iPad Pro as a replacement for a traditional PC, but whether it can serve that purpose depends on what you do, how you work, and what apps you use. In general, iPad Pro keyboard cases and covers aren’t as nice as standalone Bluetooth keyboards or the keyboards on the best laptops. But drawing and photo-editing apps are well suited to touchscreen and Apple Pencil controls, and they benefit from the iPad Pro’s large, color-accurate screen.

For more on the iPad Pro, read our full guide to pro tablets .

The Google Pixel Tablet sitting on a red background.

Google Pixel Tablet

Best android tablet for most people.

Google’s tablet has a vivid screen for viewing content and dock that transforms it into a smart-home hub.

Who this is for: You’re already invested in or partial to Google’s version of Android, and you want an affordable tablet with a good display, excellent performance, and useful smart-home controls.

Why we like it: The Google Pixel Tablet has a bright and vivid 11-inch display and is powerful enough to handle high-end gaming along with multitasking and split-screen apps. It offers our favorite Google features, like hands-free Google Assistant, voice typing, live translation, multi-profile support, and more. The 5,000 mAh battery lasted 12 hours in our testing. The included dock boosts the bass and enables Hub mode, which transforms the Pixel Tablet into a smart-home hub that allows you to control smart-home devices such as smart lights, video doorbells, security cameras, and thermostats.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: If you want a tablet that supports a stylus, your options for the Pixel Tablet are limited; the Lenovo USI Pen 2 and Penoval USI 2.0 styluses are among the few that are compatible. Those who want a tablet for drawing or writing may want to seek out a different option.

Visit our full guide to the best Android tablets to read more about the Pixel Tablet and other Android tablets we’ve tested.

Our pick for best android tablet on a budget, the Amazon Fire HD 8 (12th generation).

Budget pick

research paper on tablet computers

Amazon Fire HD 8 (12th generation)

A cheap tablet for streaming media.

The Fire HD 8 has a smaller, lower-resolution screen than the Galaxy Tab S8, but it’s a great cheap tablet for reading or watching video, especially if you get that content from Amazon’s store.

Who this is for: You want the cheapest tablet that’s good for reading and watching video, with access to a big library of video, ebooks, and music.

Why we like it: The Amazon Fire HD 8 (12th generation) costs less than $100 and is an excellent value. It lets you stream video from Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and other popular services, and you can also read your Kindle ebooks. It offers built-in support for the Alexa voice assistant used by Amazon’s popular Echo devices, which makes ordering products and media from Amazon easier. In addition, Amazon Prime members get access to a selection of no-extra-cost movies, TV shows, and ebooks (though Amazon’s apps for iOS and other Android tablets all work similarly).

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Fire HD 8 is slower and has a lower-resolution screen than any of our other picks, so text isn’t as crisp—the Kindle Paperwhite is better for reading ebooks—and its performance is optimized for watching videos and reading rather than getting work done. It’s also limited to Amazon’s Android app store, which has a smaller selection of games and apps than the regular Google Play store (which in turn lags behind Apple’s App Store when it comes to great tablet apps). Although it’s possible to install the Google Play store on the Fire HD 8 , doing so requires a workaround, and we don’t recommend it. Unlike our other tablet picks, which offer a solid selection of apps and productivity tools, the Fire HD 8 is best used only as a media-consumption device.

To find out how the Fire HD 8 stacks up against other Android tablets, see our guide to the best Android tablets .

The Amazon Kindle with a page of a book on the screen, sitting on a green background.

Amazon Kindle (2022)

The best e-reader for most people.

Amazon’s most affordable Kindle is also its most portable, with a 6-inch screen that has finally been upgraded with a higher pixel density for sharper text and support for USB-C charging. Access to Amazon’s huge ebook library makes the Kindle the best dedicated device for reading.

You save $20 (20%)

Who this is for: You don’t care about apps or browsing—you just want to read books.

Why we like it: The cheapest Kindle is also the best one. Its 6-inch E Ink screen offers 300 pixels per inch, which makes text sharp and easy to read, and the portable size makes it convenient for toting it wherever you go—it even fits in a small purse. Amazon finally switched from Micro-USB to USB-C charging for the entry-level Kindle, meaning you don’t need to hunt down a special cable to juice it up. It lasts weeks on a charge, so it’s better than an iPad or Android tablet for reading. And the Kindle comes with 16 GB of storage, which is plenty of room for your library of ebooks.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The entry-level Kindle isn’t waterproof, so if you plan to read by the pool or in the bathtub, you might want to splurge for the pricier Kindle Paperwhite.

If you’re interested in Amazon’s more expensive Kindles or non-Amazon options, read our full guide to ebook readers .

Apple announced new iPad Air and iPad Pro tablets, both arriving in 11-inch and 13-inch sizes, and both available on May 15. The 11-inch Air now starts at $599 and the new 13-inch model starts at $799. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $999, and the 13-inch model starts at $1299.

The new iPad Air resembles the previous model, but it adds more features and a 13-inch size option. Each new iPad Air uses Apple’s M2 chip, which powered the last generation iPad Pros. Apple has also moved the M2 iPad Airs’ front-facing camera to the side bezel for a landscape orientation. The M2 iPad Airs offer 128 GB (double the previous generation’s starting storage), 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB storage options. The new Airs support the current $299 Magic Keyboard accessory , but not the newer Keyboard models . And if you’re hoping to sketch or take notes on either M2 iPad Air using an Apple Pencil, they only work with the newly announced Apple Pencil Pro , which is also available on May 15.

Apple’s new iPad Pros are thinner and lighter than previous models, with the 11-inch model measuring 5.3mm thick and the 13-inch even slimmer at 5.1mm thick, which Apple claims makes it the thinnest device it’s ever shipped. Both offer an OLED display which Apple calls the Ultra Retina XDR, which features up to 1,600 nits of peak brightness. The new Pro models are also the first Apple products to ship with its new M4 chip. Like the M2 iPad Air models, the new iPad Pros moved their 12MP front-facing camera to a landscape position and only support the new Apple Pencil Pro. We’ll be testing the new iPad Air and Pro models and will update our picks soon.

Apple has also discontinued our current pick, the 9th-generation iPad, but you can still find it on sites like Amazon or Best Buy . The 10th-generation iPad also received a price cut, and now starts at $350.

In May, Google announced that the Pixel Tablet is now available without its charging speaker dock for $100 less, with a starting price of $400. The Pixel Tablet is also set to receive Google’s Circle to Search feature, with the Gemini AI assistant app coming this summer to Google’s tablet.

We also have a guide to pro tablets , where we recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 as a capable laptop replacement, but you need $300 in accessories to make the most of it. Our tablet picks are much better for tablet-focused tasks like watching videos, browsing the web, and using tablet apps than getting a lot of work done—if you need a productivity-focused device, an ultrabook (or a MacBook ) might be a better bet.

Meet your guide

Wirecutter Staff

Further reading

iPad Pro tablet open with a keyboard against a blue background.

The Best Pro Tablets

by Dave Gershgorn

If you’re looking to replace or supplement your laptop with a tablet, you have great options but also tough choices ahead of you.

An iPad in a Logitech Slim Folio case sitting next to a stack of books and a smartphone.

Getting Work Done on an iPad

by Haley Perry

You can do a surprising amount of work on an iPad with the right gear. These are the best accessories for turning your iPad into a mobile work space.

A drawing tablet sitting to the right of an open MacBook Pro, showing a drawing of a person, with a stylus next to the drawing tablet.

The Best Drawing Tablets

by Arthur Gies

Drawing tablets are nearly indispensable for creating art on a PC or laptop, and models such as the Huion Inspiroy 2 M are great for beginners and veteran artists alike.

A kid using an Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet.

The Best Tablet for Kids

by Ryan Whitwam and Andrew Cunningham

The best tablet for your kid is the old one you aren’t using anymore. If you’re buying new, Apple’s 9th-generation iPad has the best app selection.

Tablet Geeky

9 Best Tablets For Research That Any Academic Should Have

best tablets for research

Last Updated January 4, 2023

Are you looking for some of the best tablets for research?

If yes, then look no further than this article. In this article, I will provide the complete list of tablets that will surely help in your research if you are a researcher or even a research student.

When talking about academicians or researchers, one begins to visualize a person drowning in papers, books, and journals all around them.

Saying this with my experience, as I am a researcher myself, due to the number of papers I have to read, analyze and critically evaluate, the paper load sometimes gets pretty hectic, and bookmarking everything here and it is very tiresome for me. It is for this reason that tablets make professional’s lives easier in this day and age.

My guide to the best tablet for researchers like you and me outlines the features that make them ideal for academic papers.

Using the right tablet for your work is beneficial to your research and career, thus you simply need to choose one that best suits your work style, and presto, so that your workflow is faster, more efficient, and more productive.

Taking notes, sketching , reading , and bookmarking on tablets are easier than on paper. Even if you use it for 4 or 5 years, the cost spread out over that period doesn’t even amount to much.

Now, without any further delays, let’s get directly into the best tablets for researchers that will be perfect for you.

academic tablet

Table of Contents

List of Best Tablets That Are Great For Research And Academic papers:-

To help researchers and academicians choose the best tablets for their work, I have assembled this list. Now let’s look at each one in more detail:

1. Apple iPad Air

In Apple’s tablet lineup, the iPad Air is the newest model. I would recommend you go for the iPad Air if you want the latest offering from Apple.

This tablet has the A14 Bionic chipset under the hood. In my opinion with the updated design, it now looks more like an iPad Pro, but it’s a little lighter and thinner so it’s easier for researchers and research students to carry around in a backpack.

Taking the tablet out of the box I found that the iPad Air has a 10.9-inch display, which is an upgrade over its predecessors’ 9.7-inch display and I appreciate that.

apple ipad air 2020

The Liquid Retina display has TrueTone and a P3 wide color gamut, which ensured that colors were rich and vibrant when I was watching a movie or a TV show.

It has excellent brightness and gives me the right amount of brightness in dark and daylight conditions. The Apple Pencil is supported and works very smoothly, which makes note-taking very convenient.

Now I must speak about its performance and in that regard, the iPad Air houses Apple’s latest A14 Bionic, giving me plenty of horsepower for my daily tasks.

Regardless of whether I was doing a basic task or something heavier like editing videos, it had the power I needed. The tablet never lagged and appeared to be able to handle any task I threw at it, so yes, it is a powerful tablet for modern computing.

  • Elegant thin and light design.
  • Bright, colorful and sharp display.
  • Excellent webcam.
  • Magic Keyboard.
  • No face id.
  • No headphone jack.
  • Expensive accessories.

Apple ditched Touch ID in favor of Face ID, which proved to be a very bad move. As a result, Apple reintroduced Touch ID in the iPad Air, but on the side this time. This model finally comes with a USB C port for charging and accessories, which is fantastic.

Besides that, the iPad Air comes with the latest Wi-Fi 6 so it will be easier, faster, and more secure to connect to wireless networks.

Overall, the iPad Air is a great tablet for anyone who is looking to use it for his or her research purposes.

2. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Since it was launched in the global market, the Surface Pro 7 has earned global awards and has been adorned with numerous awards. The device’s powerful specifications combined with its compact and ergonomic form factor have made it a global pioneer in the field of convertibles.

Let me talk about the specifications, it is powered by the 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor and also available with an Intel i7 processor on higher-end variants.

microsoft surface pro 7

The tablet comes with 8GB of RAM for multitasking, which is more than sufficient for researchers like me, however, there is an option for 16 GB RAM if one needs more flexibility.

I really like the fact that the device has 128 GB of SSD storage, which is faster and more efficient than the previous generation. In terms of software, the tablet runs on Windows 10 Home, which in my opinion is the most productive operating system ever created.

Researchers like me and research students would appreciate the fact that the tablet has a convertible form factor and can be used as a powerful desktop replacement.

With the 12.3-inch PixelSense screen, the tablet also features extremely high contrast and low glare so that research students can work throughout the day without straining their eyes. There is also a long list of compatible peripherals available, including Type covers, surface docks, wireless display adapters, and more.

  • A keyboard is included in the package.
  • All PC apps are supported.
  • The display is bright and vivid.
  • Batteries that last longer.
  • Processor with high performance.
  • The quality of the camera is poor.
  • Very expensive.

Lastly, the device provides 10.5 hours of continuous use on a single charge, making it an ideal device for researchers, students, and anyone who needs to be productive on the go.

Overall, I feel that the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is a great tablet for research students who want to have a device that is portable and versatile, much like a laptop.

3. Microsoft Surface Go 2

The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is an excellent budget-friendly tablet making it a perfect choice for research students.

By offering Surface Pro features at a much lower price, the company hopes to attract a broader audience and in my opinion, this is a clever step by Microsoft. In terms of performance and productivity, the Surface Go 2 has never let me down in my daily usage for research work.

microsoft surface go 2

The front of the tablet consists of a bright and colorful 10.5-inch screen and if you like to draw digital sketches and paintings, you can take notes and draw with the Surface Pen, but the only downside I feel is that the pen must be purchased separately.

This Surface Go 2 has a kickstand on the back, so it works great with S-Pen, allowing for a comfortable, hands-free position for taking notes or browsing the web.

In terms of battery life, I would like to state that the Surface Go 2 has one of the best capabilities in its segment. When I was taking notes and working on documents, it lasted for 10 hours on a single charge.

Despite the budget price, performance is still good, better than its predecessor and 64% faster than the Surface Pro. This is what makes the tablet an absolute value-for-money product in my eyes.

Surface Go 2 is also highly portable, lightweight, and can easily fit inside a small sleeve, making it ideal for those who need to carry their tablets on vacations.

In addition to its keyboard cover, the tablet weighs only 544 grams, which is significantly less than the weight of an iPad with the Apple Smart Keyboard .

Because the Microsoft Surface Go 2 comes with a USB Type-C port, it is future-proof and compatible with many accessories. There is a front-facing HD camera on the tablet, so video chatting and attending lectures felt effortless to me.

So let me talk about the verdict for this device. Can research students benefit greatly from buying the Microsoft Surface Go 2?

  • Bigger screen.
  • Core M3 processor option.
  • Runs any Windows app.
  • Very low performance ceiling.
  • Battery Life.
  • Keyboard Flex.

Well, it’s a good device for the price, and with a lightweight design and a Windows-based operating system built in, I feel it’s one of the best tablets for research students on a budget and

I can definitely recommend this one to you without any hesitation. If you wanted to know more about this device, you can check out its comprehensive article .

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

I would recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 as it is the best tablet for researchers and is yet another keyboard attachable tablet I reviewed that has a long list of features and specifications.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 has an 11-inch IPS LCD display which felt amazing to my eyes. With a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, the tablet’s display provides cinematic vividness, detailed gradations, and deep contrast from a very small form factor.

From the perspective of intensive multitasking and intensive app handling, I faced no problems as the device is powered by a Snapdragon 865+ Octa-Core Processor coupled with 6GB / 8GB of RAM.

research paper on tablet computers

With the device’s internal storage of up to 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, microSD cards can be inserted up to 1TB of storage space. Running on Android 11, the tablet runs the latest and most commonly used mobile operating system.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 comes with a 13-megapixel primary rear camera and in my opinion, it is also among the best tablets for editing photographs and taking photos , as it can capture moments with outstanding details when I took photos with it.

On one charge, the tablet gets fully charged in just over two hours and provides approximately fifteen hours of backup time according to my usage.

  • Powerful Processor
  • Storage space
  • Updated S pen stylus.
  • Keyboard need to buy seperately

There are several other productivity features included on the tablet, including multitasking mode, seamless Samsung connectivity, and DeX , which transformed my tablet into a PC.

In conclusion, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is a great tablet regardless of the age or major of the research student, thus making it one of the best tablets for note-taking in 2022.

You can also find out more about this tablet’s other features and its pro model’s specifications in our other article.

5. Apple iPad Pro 11″

In the world of tablets, Apple iPads need no introduction. Apple iPads run on the most advanced, cleanest, and most sophisticated operating systems ever created.

This iPad tablet runs on the iPad OS and comes with a large 11-inch Retina display with a resolution of 2388 x 1668 pixels. In my daily usage, I felt that the display offers the brightest and least reflective screen because it uses Apple’s most advanced display technology with a 120Hz refresh rate.

Apple claims that the new iPad Pro is faster than 92% of portable notebooks sold within the last year, which is insane considering the form factor of the device, and all that’s possible due to the A12Z Bionic chip , which is hidden under the hood of the iPad Pro.

I would also like to mention that the new iPad Pro provides incredible responsiveness and is powerful enough to handle multitasking and complex actions like editing 4K video.

 apple ipad pro 11 inches

With 6GB of RAM and a huge 1TB of storage space, the device is another huge plus for researchers who easily run out of storage space.

There is a single USB Type C port, and it comes with a lot of Apple’s proprietary features including FaceID. If you opt for the cellular version, it also includes a SIM card slot or choose some with SIM cards and LTE support tablets.

As a result, the tablet made it to my list of best tablets for research students with a wide selection of apps for all productivity and entertainment purposes.

With regard to note-taking, the iPad Pro supports the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil , which is more practical and easier to use than the previous generation.

In comparison with its predecessor, the 2nd Gen Pencil sticks to the side of the iPad and charges wirelessly when placed there. Apple Pencil now seamlessly switches between pen and eraser with just a tap on the Apple Pencil, so you don’t have to constantly reach for the eraser tool.

  • Trackpad Support.
  • Gorgeous Display.
  • Faster Chipset.
  • Better Cameras.
  • LiDAR Scanner.
  • Processor Is Not A Major Upgrade.

Now it is time for me to speak the truth, that is if you have $700 on hand to spend then you cannot find a tablet that even comes close in terms of performance and usability to the new iPad Pro. The best tablet for taking notes for research in 2022 goes to this one for sure. Apple iPad 10.2″

The Apple iPad 10.2” is a smaller, more compact, and cheaper alternative to the mentioned Apple iPad Pro and iPad Air in this list. This tablet comes with a 10.2-inch Retina Display with a resolution of 2160 x 1620 pixels that felt quite refreshing to my eyes.

As the tablet has a smaller screen size, the display has a vivid and bright viewing angle and generates very accurate colors which is a boon when you want to watch a movie after a tiring day of research and studies.

In terms of the iPad’s internals, it comes with Apple’s A13 Bionic chipset with Quad Core graphics and 3GB of RAM which helped me to multitask and handled my apps with ease.

There are also a pair of excellent cameras included with the tablet. An 8MP iSight primary camera can record 1080p Full HD video, and a 12MP secondary front-facing camera can record video in 720p.

You can choose storage options ranging from 32GB to 128GB. When I held the tablet in my hands it felt just so right thanks to its great ergonomics and pleasing aesthetics making it ideal for everyday use for research students as they can carry it around in their hands easily.

A final selling point of the iPad is its battery, which lasted me for 10 hours with continuous usage on a single charge.

In conclusion, the latest iPad is a great alternative to the iPad Pro for research students if they are not willing to burn a hole in their pockets.

Check out its other review done by our experts.

6. Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite

The Galaxy Tab A7 Lite is Samsung’s latest offering, and it’s an excellent cheap tablet for students looking for a tablet without spending a lot.

On the front of the device, there is an 8.7-inch HD screen that seems spacious and big enough. At this price point, it’s excellent to have an LCD screen .

samsung galaxy tab a7 lite

Samsung has not yet announced its stylus support for this tablet, but research students can use an aftermarket one to take notes.

The metal design gives the tablet a premium feel in my hand, and it has a boxy form factor. As a result of the tablet’s lightweight design and slim profile, it was easy for me to slip it into a bag or sleeve, and carry it around without feeling burdened.

On the base model of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite, I found an octa-core processor and 3GB RAM that power the tablet and are capable of running all the multitasking tasks I had on my mind.

Despite being excellent, the base variant has relatively low power output. My recommendation for researchers would be to go for the 4 GB RAM model because most of you need to deal with multiple documents while taking notes at the same time.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite is a great tablet for research students on a budget since it has a big screen, a nice build, and a long-lasting battery. It receives a green flag from my side.

7. Samsung Galaxy Tab A7

Located in the budget tablet category, the Samsung Tab A7 is the manufacturer’s newest product. For entertainment purposes, the Tab A7 is a great choice because it comes at an affordable price and has a gorgeous 10” screen and Dolby speakers.

samsung galaxy tab a7

I would recommend this tablet to research students who want a 10-inch tablet but don’t want to spend too much. We have sorted the best 10-inch tablets for research as well. It features a Snapdragon 662 processor along with 3GB of RAM, offering decent performance for light users, according to my usage ratings.

The tablet doesn’t come with a stylus, although one can buy it separately if they plan on taking notes.

  • Vibrant, colorful display.
  • Great-sounding speakers.
  • Reliable battery life.
  • Build quality.
  • Limited RAM.
  • Camera quality.

In spite of being a budget tablet, the Tab A7 offers a microSD card slot, and the storage can be expanded up to 1TB, so running out of storage is not an issue.

This tablet is a made-in-heaven choice for professional gamers. However, you can also check some other tablets that are good for XCloud gaming.

Coming to the conclusion, I think that the Tab A7 is one of the best cheap tablets for researchers like me, who are looking for a large tablet without spending a lot of money.

8. Fire HD 10

Amazon’s Kindle is famous for its feature-rich and affordable performance-based tablets, but this time the brand has introduced a much stronger and more versatile line of tablets under the Fire series.

One such offering from the company is the Fire HD 10, one of the best tablets in Amazon’s Fire line. Its soft-touch finish and decent build make it a good tablet in my opinion.

Fire HD 10+

On top of the 10-inch HD IPS LCD, the Fire HD 10 has an anti-glare coating which helped me because I used this tablet to read under direct sunlight. I feel that the 1920×1200 pixel Full HD screen of this tablet makes it stand out from most other tablets in its class.

Depending on the model, the tablet can be connected to either 32GB or 64GB of storage, but microSD cards can be added up to 512GB. Because Fire OS 5 comes pre-loaded on it, it’s perfect for research students both for everyday use and for reading.

  • Multitasking.
  • Eye-friendly screen.
  • Some time size may be an issue.
  • RAM is just 3GB.

The customizable voice assistant under Alexa lets users ask questions and give commands via voice for quick and accurate answers.

It is also known for being one of the best tablets for web surfing. However, if you want to know more about tablets that are good for web surfing, you can check out our other article which is primarily based on this. 

As a whole, I would rate the Fire HD 10 as one of the best tablets for research students who are temporarily looking for a tablet for notes and E-reading, along with binge-viewing the Amazon Prime video library.

9. Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Students and research people who need to carry their daily driver to class or lectures can benefit from the Lenovo Chromebook Duet.

Moreover, it houses a detachable keyboard design that allows this tablet to double as a laptop. The keyboard connects with the tablet using a magnetic mechanism, so whenever you need to type anything, you connect it with the tablet for laptop-like functionality.

You get 10 hours of screen time, so yes the battery life needs to last. It’s built for productivity, so yes, the battery life has to last.

lenovo chromebook duet

Design-wise, it is sleek and minimal as you would expect from a device that is intended for productivity. It looks quite similar to the iPad Pro because the bezels are thin and the corners are rounded.

As for the back, it’s unique seeing as it’s got a dual-tone design that’s made of aluminum alloy, so it does evoke a feeling of luxury.

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is designed to perform light workloads such as presentations, spreadsheets, internet browsing, and entertainment without experiencing any lag. The machine serves its purpose perfectly, and it has all the right specifications to make it a great tool for researchers and students.

  • Cheaper device.
  • Weight may be an issue.

The computer boots up within a few seconds and seems to be ready whenever you need it. A Google One membership for one year, inclusive of 100GB of storage, is also included with the Lenovo Chromebook Duet.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What tablet is best for studying?

The Surface Pro 7 is a great option to check out. With a very thin laptop design and a detachable keyboard, it feels more like a laptop when you are typing on it than a tablet when you are holding it in your lap.

It has a much more powerful processor, so you can run your applications much more quickly. With its 12.3-inch display and full Windows 10 operating system, the Surface Pro 7 is a very powerful tablet.

Other tablets do not come with CPU options like the Core M3, Core i5, or Core i7 for the Surface Pro 7. Also, it has up to 32GB DDR4x RAM in comparison to other tablets with only 8GB or less.

  • What is the best way to study on a tablet?

Here are a few ways to maximize your tablet’s capabilities for studying :

1. Take a look at some apps, such as the free BrainPop and the paid Crash Course, to learn more about what you are studying. In Seymour’s Science Adventure, I particularly like the interactive nature of the game.

2. It’s one of the coolest things about tablets that they have cameras that let you film yourself and then upload your videos for everyone to see. If it is a new technology for your parents as well, you can ask them to teach you.

3. Tablets are great for when you would like to do something different but still want easy access to your studies

  • What is the best tablet to use every day?

The best tablet for everyday use is the iPad Air because it has many useful features that one would want to be able to do on their tablet, such as watching movies, sending emails, and playing games.

Watching shows or movies on the iPad Air is also possible thanks to its big screen. Moreover, the iPad Air has a high-resolution screen, so the movies or shows you are watching will have a lot of visual clarity..

  • How do you choose between a laptop and a tablet for studying?

A laptop is best for studying because of its larger screen, which means your eyes won’t be strained.

A laptop also comes with a keyboard, so typing information on it is easier. Because a laptop display is larger than a tablet, you won’t need to strain your eyes when studying with one.

  • What is the benefit of using a tablet over keeping physical notes and books?

There are a lot of messy and cumbersome things about books and papers. It can also be quite a tedious and stressful experience to carry them all day long. Over time it will cause distress to your shoulders and even worse, it may affect your career if anything goes missing.

With tablets, you can organize your entire research life into a slim, lightweight device that will store all your notes, books, and other documents in one single location. With cloud technology, you can also check them from any other device.

Giant backpacks and broken backs are a thing of the past. At least, as long as you make sure you don’t damage the tablet or let it go missing.

  • What is the ideal amount of storage space for a tablet?

I have emphasized above that it really comes down to what you need. Although this is true, you should note that some tablets with less storage space are far more affordable.

If you are planning to use an external storage device or cloud storage, then you will have the opportunity to save money (apart from any subscription fees).

It should be fine to choose something like a 32GB device. For those planning not to use anything extra, I recommend you to go for the most storage space you can. Presentations, notes, and lectures have a tendency to pile up.

When you consider how research programs can last anywhere from three to five years on average, you can be sure that your devices will be clogged with data sooner or later.

Congratulations! You have reached the end of my review. I have now provided you with the best options for making your research working days as effortless and pleasant as possible for you.

Now that you know what would work best for you, it’s up to you which one would fit your needs the best. I hope you choose the best tablet according to your needs and reach the very heights of your career.

ben scott

Ben Scott is a prominent technology journalist and reviewer, specializing in tablet devices. He is known for his comprehensive and unbiased reviews of tablets from various manufacturers. With a deep understanding of tablet technology, including hardware components, operating systems, and software applications, Scott provides clear and informative reviews accessible to readers of all levels of technical expertise. His attention to detail and in-depth analysis have earned him a loyal following of readers.

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Computer Science > Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition

Title: reviewing intelligent cinematography: ai research for camera-based video production.

Abstract: This paper offers a comprehensive review of artificial intelligence (AI) research in the context of real camera content acquisition for entertainment purposes and is aimed at both researchers and cinematographers. Considering the breadth of computer vision research and the lack of review papers tied to intelligent cinematography (IC), this review introduces a holistic view of the IC landscape while providing the technical insight for experts across across disciplines. We preface the main discussion with technical background on generative AI, object detection, automated camera calibration and 3-D content acquisition, and link explanatory articles to assist non-technical readers. The main discussion categorizes work by four production types: General Production, Virtual Production, Live Production and Aerial Production. Note that for Virtual Production we do not discuss research relating to virtual content acquisition, including work on automated video generation, like Stable Diffusion. Within each section, we (1) sub-classify work by the technical field of research - reflected by the subsections, and (2) evaluate the trends and challenge w.r.t to each type of production. In the final chapter, we present our concluding remarks on the greater scope of IC research and outline work that we believe has significant potential to influence the whole industry. We find that work relating to virtual production has the greatest potential to impact other mediums of production, driven by the growing interest in LED volumes/stages for in-camera virtual effects (ICVFX) and automated 3-D capture for a virtual modelling of real world scenes and actors. This is the first piece of literature to offer a structured and comprehensive examination of IC research. Consequently, we address ethical and legal concerns regarding the use of creative AI involving artists, actors and the general public, in the...

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Yanko Design - Modern Industrial Design News

Windows on ARM success can drive PC design innovation

research paper on tablet computers

Despite the power that smartphones and tablets have these days, PCs and their Mac equivalents remain the workhorses of the modern world. Not only do they have more power, they also offer more flexibility thanks to decades of research, development, and innovation. Market analysts, however, have long been pointing to the demise of the PC market, especially desktops, and there has indeed been a great deal of stagnation not only in hardware but even in product designs. It’s not that there haven’t been any improvements, just that designs have become predictable and even sometimes forgettable. You can’t, after all, change the design formula too much unless you also drastically change the internals as well. That’s the kind of burst in innovation that awaits the PC market, both laptops and even desktops, if running Windows on the same hardware as smartphones and tablets finally becomes reliable and productive.

Designer: Qualcomm

research paper on tablet computers

Rough Start: Microsoft Surface

It’s not like the combination of Windows and ARM-based processors, the same silicon that powers mobile devices, hasn’t been done before, but almost all past attempts have come up short of expectations. Disregarding the antiquated Windows CE and Windows Phone variants, Microsoft has time and again tried to bring the benefits of phones and tablets to PCs without much success. One of the first ones in recent memory is the smaller Microsoft Surface. Although the Surface Pro has become something of an icon today, its base model didn’t enjoy the same level of fame, attention, and sales.

research paper on tablet computers

Microsoft Surface RT

research paper on tablet computers

Designer: Microsoft

The Surface RT and Surface 2 both ran on ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra processors that were normally quite capable on Android tablets. Even those, however, couldn’t bear the weight of Windows, even the watered-down Windows RT version. To add insult to injury, the apps available for that platform were a dismal number which didn’t include the software that people needed to use on Windows. Thus, these first attempts at Windows on ARM were considered to be abject failures, but surprisingly, Microsoft didn’t give up completely.

research paper on tablet computers

Microsoft Surface Pro 9

research paper on tablet computers

Fast-forward to today, there have been numerous attempts to improve the situation, both from the hardware and the software side. The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 now has a version that runs an even more powerful ARM Qualcomm processor, and the Microsoft Store has quite a selection of popular apps. There are also some emulation solutions for running “normal” Windows software on ARM laptops and tablets, but that’s not exactly a panacea. All these sound like too much effort for what seems like a niche design, but it’s an effort that could yield a bountiful harvest if it succeeds.

Faster, Slimmer, Cooler

Qualcomm announced last month its new Snapdragon X Plus and Elite processors, and while the “Snapdragon” name is popular for smartphones and tablets, the “X” chips are earmarked for use in Windows computers instead, particularly laptops. Qualcomm boasts numbers that would make the likes of Intel and AMD worry, though it’s also aiming squarely for Apple’s M series processors. That’s definitely a tall order, especially with the launch of the new Apple M4 chip, but if theory proves to be even remotely near the mark, it will be a huge win for the Windows market and PCs in general.

research paper on tablet computers

The new Snapdragon X Plus and Elite unsurprisingly boast about being able to do heavy-duty generative AI work, something that would require a lot of processing power that is traditionally only available on “regular” laptops and desktops. What would set it apart, however, is how it delivers that performance with lower battery consumption, heat, and space compared to equivalent Intel and AMD processors. It’s too early to say if Qualcomm will be able to deliver those promises, but it’s definitely a big leap compared to previous generations.

research paper on tablet computers

ARM-based processors like those from Qualcomm and MediaTek have been used in mobile devices precisely because of these traits. They can keep the product compact without impacting performance, something that laptop makers aim for every year. More importantly, however, these small form factors open the doors to less conventional designs, paving the way for dual-screen, foldable, or rollable PCs that don’t sacrifice their power for the sake of their novel appearance and features.

Thinking Outside the Box

The very first benefit of Windows successfully and smoothly running on ARM devices would be thinner laptops with longer battery lives. It can’t be understated how significant that will be for creatives, especially those who will rely a lot on that generative AI that everyone’s talking about these days. But even if you do much of your designs manually, the idea that you can bring your work anywhere without breaking your back and stay unplugged for more than half a day is going to appeal to a lot of people

research paper on tablet computers

Lenovo Yoga Book 9i

research paper on tablet computers

Designer: Lenovo

Once that has become the norm, however, it will be time to explore the possibilities that thinner, more compact, or smaller devices can bring. Imagine those handheld gaming PCs becoming thinner and smaller, almost down to tablet or even phone sizes. Admittedly, being able to play just about any PC game is going to be tricky today, but that’s not going to be the case in the future.

research paper on tablet computers

And then there are the current novelties like laptops with two screens or foldable displays, designs that have to sacrifice performance for the sake of super thin bodies. It hasn’t arrived yet, but a rollable screen might even become a thing for computers. In other words, Windows on ARM would enable all these forms beyond desktop towers and laptops to become possible without sacrificing too much performance. We seem to be heading in that direction already, but hardware is only half the battle.

Uphill Battle

No matter how powerful ARM chips are, enough to smoothly run Windows, all of that will fall on deaf ears if Windows on ARM isn’t able to support as much as 80% of regular Windows software, including games and especially content creation tools. That was what killed the Surface RT and Surface 2, after all, and things have improved considerably but not yet to most PC users’ satisfaction. One of the available solutions right now is emulation, like making the software or game think it’s running on an Intel/AMD computer, but that incurs penalties in performance.

research paper on tablet computers


research paper on tablet computers


research paper on tablet computers

Designer: AYANEO

There are also obstacles to be overcome on the hardware side. As strange as it might sound, PCs are a somewhat open ecosystem when it comes to the variety of things you can plug into a computer and have them working automatically. You lose some of that with Windows on ARM because of compatibility issues, and that might prevent less popular but heavily used peripherals from working, at least not at first. Unfortunately, that might be a huge deal breaker, especially for those who have already invested in devices for their workflow.

research paper on tablet computers

Final Thoughts

Qualcomm’s announcement of the Snapdragon X Plus and Elite tried to preempt Apple’s new M4 chip and iPad Pros . Apple’s venture into the ARM world is both a boon and a bane for the likes of Qualcomm as it demonstrates what’s possible. But even Apple has remained within the boundaries of traditional devices like a tablet and a laptop. Not surprising for a company that is very meticulous and careful about the design of its products.

Designer: Apple

The Windows world, however, is a bit more daring thanks to the diversity of people involved. Unconventional and sometimes impractical designs pop up once in a while, but they’re all hampered by the limitations of hardware that’s commonly available for PCs. Windows on ARM isn’t new and it still has a long way to go to confidently match what Intel, AMD, and now Apple are selling, but stakeholders in the PC industry should probably consider rallying behind this if they want to breathe new life into the stagnating PC market.

research paper on tablet computers

Designer: Samsung

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ACM Human-Computer Interaction conference (CHI) 2024

Apple is sponsoring the ACM Human-Computer Interaction Conference (CHI), which is taking place in person from May 11 to May 16, 2024 in Honolulu, Hawai'i.

Below is the schedule of Apple sponsored workshops and events at CHI 2024. Stop by the Apple booth in Kamehameha 1 Hall, Booth 100, from 5:30pm - 7:30pm HST on May 13; 10:00am - 6:00pm HST on May 14; 10:00am - 5:30pm HST on May 15; 10:00am - 12:00pm HST on May 16.

Tuesday, May 14

  • CHI 2024 Appreciation Luncheon
  • 12:20 PM - 2:00 PM HST, Room 304A
  • Alex Lim and Erdrin Azemi will be representing Apple at the CHI 2024 Appreciation Luncheon.
  • Journey to Apple - Career Panel with Human Factors Engineers
  • 12:30 PM - 1:05 PM HST, Room TBD
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Model Compression in Practice: Lessons Learned from Practitioners Creating On-device Machine Learning Experiences

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Talaria: Interactively Optimizing Machine Learning Models for Efficient Inference

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AXNav: Replaying Accessibility Tests from Natural Language

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Accepted Papers

Maryam Taeb (Florida State University), Amanda Swearngin, Eldon Schoop, Regina Cheng, Yue Jiang, Jeff Nicholsl


Amanda Swearngin, Titus Barik and Eldon Schoop are Associate Chairs of a program or organizing committee for CHI 2024.

Xiaoying Pu, Moses Namara, Amanda Swearngin, Xiaoyi Zhang, Regina Cheng, Mary Beth Kery, Eldon Schoop, Jeremy Warner and Agni Kumar are reviewers for CHI 2024.

Related readings and updates.

International conference on acoustics, speech and signal processing (icassp) 2024.

Apple is sponsoring the International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP), which is taking place in person from April 14 to 19 in Seoul, South Korea. ICASSP is the IEEE Signal Processing Society's flagship conference on signal processing and its applications.

Apple sponsored the ACM Human-Computer Interaction conference (CHI), which was held in a hybrid virtual and in-person format from April 30 to May 5. CHI is the premier international conference on Human-Computer Interaction.

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    The generalizability of evidence is limited, and detailed explanations as to how, or why, using tablets within certain activities can improve learning remain elusive. We recommend that future research moves beyond exploration towards systematic and in-depth investigations building on the existing findings documented here.

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    International Journal of Research in Education and Science (IJRES), 2(1), 55-64. This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.

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    This paper offers a comprehensive review of artificial intelligence (AI) research in the context of real camera content acquisition for entertainment purposes and is aimed at both researchers and cinematographers. Considering the breadth of computer vision research and the lack of review papers tied to intelligent cinematography (IC), this review introduces a holistic view of the IC landscape ...

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    Watch on. Despite the power that smartphones and tablets have these days, PCs and their Mac equivalents remain the workhorses of the modern world. Not only do they have more power, they also offer more flexibility thanks to decades of research, development, and innovation. Market analysts, however, have long been pointing to the demise of the PC.

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