Kindles in school make reading fun for students

From wire service reports
December 18th, 2012

Students “are learning to research with a purpose and back up their facts, which is the kind of learning Common Core expects,” said principal Danny Ramsey.

From the outside looking in on Christy Collins’ seventh-grade language arts class at Baldwyn Middle School in Mississippi, it might seem odd to find students surfing the internet and perusing articles on everything from professional football to the latest make-up.

But they are actually learning. The class of almost 30 students is quiet enough to hear a pin drop.

“Right now, they’re looking for examples of compound and complex sentences,” Collins said. “Once they find them, they write them down and turn them in. When they have the freedom to read what they like, they retain the material much better.”

Collins said the students also use the Kindles in school to research topics and current events. For instance, earlier in the week, students were assigned to research a number of Christmas facts and organize their findings into a presentation for the class.

“The kids are sorting through information, determining what is useful and relevant and what is not, then taking their new knowledge and using it for something. It’s much more interactive than me standing at the board and lecturing them,” she said.

This sort of autonomy in learning will do well to help students prepare for the impending Common Core state standards, said Baldwyn Middle School Principal Danny Ramsey.

1 2 Read More »

2 Responses to “Kindles in school make reading fun for students”

December 19, 2012

Before I come across as overtly negative let me first stress that I do not believe that Kindles and e-readers have no place being in a classroom, but rather that their usefulness has by and large been overstated. There are a number of advantages afforded by e-readers that are seldom present in the traditional texts and other web devices. Perhaps one of the most useful tools is the text to speech function that many e-readers have, a feature that could prove invaluable to a wide range of students. The ability to both read along with and listen to a text simultaneously could prove tremendously helpful to students who have learning disabilities, ELL students, or even students whose reading skills are not fully formed. By adding a second means for comprehension, we give the student a greater chance at more fully understanding a text.
Now with that in mind, there are still a plethora of disadvantages that one encounters when dealing with e-readers, the first being the relative hurdles that e-readers present in terms of ease of use. While to the average student, these issues may seem minute, not all students are equally equipped to properly utilize this technology. Consider the difficulty an ELL student might face in attempting to navigate an operating system and instruction manual that is an entirely different language. Or consider the potential that an e-reader might be too stimulating on a sensory level, and therefore stress inducing, for a wide range of special education students, particularly those with Asperger’s Syndrome or PDD-NOS. Even for fully functioning students, e-readers can be less than intuitive. For instance, while one can flip between multiple physical texts with ease, simultaneously looking at them side by side, and annotating them with post it notes, doing so on an e-reader can be problematic, both because of the small screen as well as the limitations of the interface. Even the nature of the product can be less reliable than a conventional textbook: the batteries can die, the screens can crack, they can get viruses, and over time the parts can simply wear out.
With that said, the biggest issue I have with the case made for e-readers in the article is that too many of the positives discussed in the article(increased attention spans, heightened abilities to synthesize information, forming ideas about how to best conduct research) are attributed to the e-readers themselves, rather than the methods by which the class is being run. For instance, it seems as if to an extent the author is assuming that it is the e-reader keeping the children’s attention, when it could simply be the novelty of using an e-reader rather than a traditional text. When a child has day in and day out has gone through school using traditional texts, an e-reader is new and exciting, but will it continue to be as captivating, and hold a child’s attention as well, weeks, months, or years after common usage?
Another problem is that it remains difficult to assess whether or not students are staying on task when dealing with small portable devices with internet connectivity. Whereas a standard computer screen allows a teacher to easily see what their students are doing by merely walking behind them, or to view the activity on their screens with the help of programs, the same cannot be said for e-readers. Not only does this pose the issue that students may not pay attention, but they may even be putting themselves at risk on the internet.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the advantages of e-readers outlined in the article can just as easily be attributed to standard computers. There is no inherent advantage to student utilizing an e-reader to research topics on the internet, rather than a computer, and in fact, students could probably do so more efficiently by using a computer. Whereas this may be the first time a student uses an e-reader, they have almost certainly used a computer, so there is no learning curve. Additionally, the larger screen of a computer affords the student more space for open windows, allowing side by side comparisons of resources. Even typing is easier, faster, and less prone to errors, as students are able to use a full sized conventional keyboard rather than less intuitive touch screen or miniature keyboard.

January 2, 2013

I read recently that the Pew Research Trust discovered that most teens, if they are going to read online, prefer to use a phone or a computer. Apparently, very few have an e-reader. I have a Kindle, the one with a with a keyboard that just about drives me crazy! The keys are so small! I use a lighted cover which is very handy at night. Once I manage to download a book I enjoy using it, especially for traveling.