An estimated 66% of students use a computer or tablet to do homework or study, and this number is only going to grow. One of the most noticeable changes in the education market is the increasing inclusion of tablets in schools.

Apple’s iPad alone reportedly accounts for 94% of the tablet market in schools. In the fourth quarter last year, Apple sold over $1 billion in products to U.S. schools. However, tech giants Samsung and Microsoft also have a growing presence in the market. The most recent contender to enter the tablet wars is Google’s Nexus 7, which was released last summer and complements the Google Play for Education app store.

Although tablets are generating a lot of buzz in classrooms nationwide, do they live up to the hype? Is there any measurable proof that using a tablet over a textbook will improve a student’s learning habits? A recent pair of studies suggest that tablets may actually improve study habits among students.

The studies are a part of the Making Learning Mobile project, which aims to provide quantifiable measurement of the benefit of mobile technology in education. The study, sponsored by wireless service provider Kajeet and conducted by Project Tomorrow, provided two Virginia schools (one elementary and one middle school) with Android HTC Evo tablets for the duration of the 2012-13 school year. In addition to tablets, students were also provided with wireless internet service both at school and in their homes.

The study aimed to show how using tablets to communicate with teachers and classmates effectively extends the learning day and allows students to develop the digital skills needed to retain classroom knowledge. Researchers closely followed student activity over the course of the school year. The study found that not only were students more inclined to use the tablets in class and at home, but also that tablets changed the students’ learning behaviors.

Students were more engaged in class when using their devices, communicated more with their teachers, and were better able to complete assigned tasks. Before the students were given tablets, only 39% of students accessed the internet at school on a weekly basis. By the end of the year in which the study was conducted, researchers found that 88% of students said they accessed the internet at school weekly, and 35% did so daily.*

The future of tech in education has promise. Concrete data of the benefit tablets provide for teachers and students shows we are heading in the right direction. The increasing demand for tablets in the classroom is not only a way for tech giants to make billions, but also a way to effectively increase student learning. It will be interesting to see how long tablets are the norm before they are disrupted by something new.

*See slide 32