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8 school-smart tablets

Is a tablet on your child's back-to-school list? Check out our tech expert's top picks.

By Christina Tynan-Wood

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Pick your tablet

These days, electronic tablets are springing up everywhere — with good reason. Tablets are portable, powerful, affordable, easy to use, and bring an astonishing arsenal of learning tools to your fingertips. There are hundreds of educational apps for tablets — from calculators to books to educational games. A tablet makes taking notes a matter of turning on a voice recorder, snapping a picture, and typing a few facts. A student with a tablet can download research materials and class assignments in a snap, or rather, a tap. So if your student is clamoring to get in on the craze — insisting an electronic tablet will improve his school year — he may have a point.

Tablets aren't for everyone, of course. For many families, the cost is prohibitive; others may be unwilling to introduce yet another screen into their child's life. And no matter what your child tells you, a tablet won't transform a bad student into a good one. Tablets are simply another electronic tool that can make life a little easier — and a lot more portable.

If you're considering a tablet for your student, remember that these days, the tablet universe is a lot bigger than just the iPad. Many of the tablets on the Android platform, for example, are cheaper, smaller, and more suited to student life. In the end, the right tablet will depend on your student, his school, the size of his backpack, and your budget. So check out your options; you may find that your student's request for a tablet is easier to fulfill than you thought. And how often do you get to buy school supplies and be a hero at the same time?

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Christina Tynan-Wood has written for Better Homes and Gardens, Popular Science, PC World, PC Magazine, InfoWorld, and many others. She currently writes the "Family Tech" column in Family Circle and blogs at