Tag Archive for kindle

Reed College Kindle Report

Reed College has published a report on the Kindle pilot project they undertook this year. The study reports that e-readers are useful in many ways but have too many shortcomings to be a standard device at this time. Especially weak were annotation and bookmarking capabilities. My favorite line:

When students were asked if they would purchase a Kindle DX (or
other dedicated eReader) for academic use, they indicated that the price would need to drop
dramatically –– to less than $100 –– in order for them to seriously consider purchasing one.

I appreciate the perspective and thoroughness of a study such as this. It helps cut through the rhetoric about new hardware “changing” education and properly define the time frame for meaningful change as years.

Providing a Kindle to families

We recently made a Kindle device available to families to borrow and try, in case they were curious about the device. Our cross-departmental technology committee evaluated the device and did not find a compelling reason to consider widespread adoption of the Kindle or other electronic reader devices. We will certainly continue to watch this product niche in the future.

Some Kindle features

The Kindle and other e-readers use a new kind of screen called “digital ink.” As opposed to conventional display screens, digital ink screens do not use a backlight. The screen is easier on the eyes than a laptop screen and remains visible in bright daylight. Because the Kindle is not backlit you can’t use it in the dark without an additional light source.

The Kindle does a good job increasing text size, changing screen direction, and altering the number of words displayed per line.

The Kindle can store up to 1,500 books at one time. It can display documents in the Amazon, Word document, HTML,  text, and PDF formats. It can also play MP3 and Audible files. Some file formats require conversion through Amazon’s email system.

The Kindle can read the text on the screen aloud but it does so poorly and really isn’t useful as a text-to-speech tool.

The Kindle includes some bookmarking and annotation features.

Note taking was difficult. It was uncomfortable to use the small keyboard to add text.

The battery lasts a long time—up to two weeks if you don’t make extensive use of the wireless browsing capabilities.

The Kindle includes a web browser and wireless connectivity that uses the same 3G network used by cell phones. There is no charge for the wireless connectivity at this time. The Kindle must be registered in order to use the wireless capabilties.

Books sold by Amazon for the Kindle are sold in a proprietary format that can only be read using Amazon software. Currently, that software is available for the Kindle, Apple’s iPhone, and Microsoft Windows. Amazon is working on software to read Kindle format books on Mac OSX and Blackberries.

Once you register your Kindle device with Amazon, you may purchase additional texts with one click. This could be a liability if you lend your device to someone else.

Some colleges, including Reed, have experimented with using these devices in their instructional program. We do not yet know whether these colleges are planning large-scale adoption. Read about Reed’s experiment.

Other e-readers include the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony eReader. Reviewers suggest that they each have their pros and cons.

The Kindle may prove useful to students who seek the convenience of an e-reader or benefit from the additional features such as changing text size. These devices are an example of an emerging technology, and we will watch their capabilities as the technology matures.

Never mind the toys

Oh, how many toys exist to consider.

Kindle! Nook! Reader!
iPhone! Droid! Nexus!
Ning! Twitter! Facebook!
Netbook! Apple tablet! XO tablet!
Smart Board! Active Board! Wiimote!
Google Apps! Chrome!

Education technology blogs appear obsessed with tracking the latest gadgets. Certainly, new product announcements provide a rich source of content for writers. It is easier to reflect on the latest company news and speculate on its effect on education than to consider the core question of education. How does one design rich learning opportunities that will make the greatest difference for students?

Face it: most of the devices above won’t make a bit of difference to teaching and learning. Let’s stop talking about the devices and start talking about students, teachers, and learning environments. I think Warlick has got it right. So does Larry Cuban. Tom Frizelle, too.

Some of our teachers have also got it right. Suspicious about education technology, they tend to shy away from trainings and conversations about computers in the classroom. It’s too bad, because ed tech professionals deserve our reputation for relentless optimism about new technologies. It’s up to us to sing a new tune: all about teaching and learning, all the time.

Let’s promote with our teachers only the technologies that show real promise and stick with them for at least a period of years. Focus on how a technology integrates with an existing, well-designed learning unit or activity. A little skepticism about new technologies may also help demonstrate our ability to think critically.

Forget the new toys. Let’s think deeply about our students, curriculum, and pedagogy.