More than half of the nation’s school districts are using tablet computers or e-readers for instruction, and many others plan to acquire that technology in the next 18 months, according to a new survey.

The numbers, gathered in the summer of 2012, provide strong evidence that tablet computers have become significant players in the instructional life of students.

The impetus for that growth was the introduction of the Apple iPad in April 2010; the following 2½ years have seen a steady stream of upgraded models and competitive products to attract users.

The MCH Strategic Data marketing firm collected data from more than 5,100 school districts. Those districts account for about a third of the nation’s districts.

The survey found that 54.1 percent of responding districts were using tablets or e-readers, and another 10.7 percent would be acquiring them within 18 months. More than 75 percent of the districts with tablets say they are being used in all of their schools.

Larger districts were more likely to be early adopters of tablets—61.6 percent of systems with more than 10 schools were using the technology, while only 45.8 percent of districts with one school or less had acquired tablets.

The popularity of tablets and other portable Internet devices has prompted many districts to approve polices that allow students to use their own technology at school. The survey found that 21.4 percent of responding districts had established “Bring Your Own Technology” (BYOT) policies in some of all of their schools; 9.9 percent of the districts allowed BYOT in all of their schools.

The survey also measured the prevalence of other technology in responding.

  • Interactive whiteboards: 90.6 percent.
  • Wireless Internet in all schools: 64.8 percent (86.2 percent say they have wireless Internet in at least some of their schools).
  • Document cameras: 61.6 percent.
  • Cloud computing: 52.4 percent.
  • Student response systems/clickers: 48.3 percent.
  • Distance learning: 47.9 percent.