Are Schools Ready for e-Readers?

September 26, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Posted by Maia VanBeuren

Harvey Daniels and Steven Zemelman’s Subjects Matter’s chapters on textbooks seem to mention the weight and cost as some of the biggest limitations of textbooks. The first thing that came into my mind was the use of e-readers as a possible solution to that. Now, it is likely that I thought of this because I have been debating whether or not to buy one for months now, but after some quick research, it seems that I am not alone in this consideration.

In fact, a school in Clearwater, Florida just outfitted over 2,000 students with Kindles that are personally tailored to their course load. Instead of having to carry around multiple textbooks, plus any paperbacks they are reading, they only have one electronic device.

So e-readers are lighter. What else can they do for students? Most of the information I found relates to Amazon’s Kindle , but I can imagine that other e-readers have similar features. With the Kindle, the user can make notes as they read, look up words in a built-in dictionary, highlight, share via a built-in integration with Twitter and Facebook, and have English text read aloud. It can be synced with up to four other devices, meaning that the user can pick up where they left off on their personal computer.

Also, as Cool Cat Teacher’s blog post points out, imagine being able to update textbooks without having to throw all the old books away.

A Science Daily article claims that an e-reader is engaging for students and make encourage even the least motivated readers to interact with text. And the reactions from the students in Clearwater are positive so far.

Not everyone who has tried using a Kindle academically has had a positive experience. Amazon’s pilot program with MBA students resulted in most students enjoying the Kindle for personal use, but preferred paper books for academic use . And keeping all those Kindles organized, identified, and located is a huge task for schools (as Cool Cat Teacher points out).

And that’s before you even get into challenges that I barely understand, such as pricing and availability, formatting for different devices, and other copyright issues.

However, considering Daniels and Zemelman’s claim that students today read too often from textbooks and would benefit from reading a variety of sources (such as books, newspapers, magazines, and websites) the perhaps there may be a place for an e-reader in schools. Teachers could still use a hands-on paper textbook in the classroom as a reference, but student could have an electronic copy to use as a reference at home as needed. It would also be a great way to include all these other sources of reading. Students would be able to write all the notes they wanted as they read, and the school wouldn’t have to worry about the books being defaced. They would only have to remember to bring one device in, rather than up to a half a dozen heavy books.

So I wonder, is it too soon or too absurd to start thinking about integrating e-readers into the classroom? Do the positives out-weight the negatives? Can an e-reader reach students better than normal paper text? Or will it just add a new source of drama to the classroom?

Daniels, H. & Zemelman, S. (2004). Subjects matter: Every teacher’s guide to content-area reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.



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  1. Maia,
    I really enjoyed reading this blog. It seems like everyday I am reading about another school that is testing out ipads in their elementary classrooms; however, as a pre-secondary science/special ed. teacher I believe that highschool science classrooms could benefit greatly from kindles, ipads, and/or nooks. With kindles and nooks being able to access the internet now, students would be able to perform research within the classroom without having the bulk of 30 computers lining the walls. Not only could the kindles and nooks have the students text books downloaded to them, they would be able to access a variety of different texts at the swipe of a finger….talk about differentiation. Not only that students would be able to alter font size, background, highlight, and annotate, while they read. This allows students who struggle with reading due to poor sight, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and other disabilities access different types of text. I believe that the sooner that we can get these technologies into the classroom the sooner more advanced e-readers will be available, and we (teachers/schools) will be ready and able to implement them effectively. My only fear is that with any technology, the amount that it is used in the classroom, and the effectiveness of its use is primarily up the the knowledge of the teacher. I am a strong proponent of “not asking teachers to do something that they are not prepared to do.” Professional development and technology advisers are vital to effective implementation of technologies, and e-readers are no exception.

  2. Maia (and Peter),

    I also couldn’t agree more. I would like to see the integration of this technology into classrooms. I worry about it being abused, such as the students using it for personal time instead of using it for academic purposes in the classroom. But, when I think about how much time the students spend sneaking their iPods and cellphones, or just spacing out in class because they are not engaged, I think that it would be beneficial in a classroom if used correctly. Many colleges give students free laptops when they start school. Yes, it’s build into a rather exorbitant tuition fee, but I can see this technology filtering down into high schools over time. I think that the versatility and “fun factor” could be an asset to any student and any classroom.

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