Alexander: Should schools buy iPads or laptops?

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 5, 2012 - 4:17 PM

QOur school system will buy iPad tablet computers for junior and senior high school students this fall.

This seems misguided to me, since these students ought to be using a PC with a keyboard to adapt to college life. I also wonder whether the apps used on an iPad will work on a laptop that a student takes to college.

DAVID HERZER, Willmar, Minn.

ANo, the apps for an iPad won't work on another type of computer. But that doesn't necessarily mean that tablet computers are a waste of money, or that your school ought to be buying laptops instead.

Your school is one of many that are embracing tablet computers for their potential as highly portable electronic textbooks and multimedia teaching devices (see startribune.com/a1340 and startribune.com/a1342.) While it remains to be seen whether tablet computers will improve teaching, it seems likely that a student's college experience is going to involve tablet computers as much as laptops.

That doesn't mean you don't have a good point about the practicality of laptops. Today's tablets are more limited in capability than a laptop (they don't come with physical keyboards, for example.) And, when it comes to software, the iPad is an island of incompatibility.

But tablet computing is changing rapidly. Software compatibility between tablets and other computers will improve later this year when Microsoft introduces its Windows 8 operating system, which is designed to be used on both touch-screen tablets and conventional PCs.

The iPad's future is less predictable. Now less than three years old, it's a product still in its infancy.

QAbout three months ago I lost my Microsoft Outlook 2010 e-mails, contacts, address book contents and calendar entries, plus some files I had opened via Outlook. Then one day they all appeared again. Then, about two weeks ago, they all disappeared again. What can I do?

GEORGE PITSICOULIS, Ottawa

AThe Outlook e-mail program has a lot of quirks. One of them is that its settings can be changed in ways that make things seem to disappear even though they're not really gone.

This can happen because of the way Outlook filters out some files (such as e-mail you've already viewed), the way it accepts incoming e-mail and the types of anti-virus add-on software it uses. For fixes, see startribune.com/a1348.

Alternatively, try returning Outlook to its default settings by going to Start, clicking Run, typing in "Outlook.exe /cleanviews" (space after .exe) and clicking OK.

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.

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