MET:Using E-Readers in the Classroom
E-readers have exploded on the marketplace and in our consciences over the last several years. The Association of American Publishers reports e-book sales increased 118% in the first half of 2010 over the same period in 2009 (Jordan 2009). Amazon reports a 300% increase in sales of its Kindle e -books in this same period (Amazon.com 2010). These numbers reveal a change in reading habits by the public. A report from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2009 showed that “Reading is on the rise”. Adults who read literature (print or online) increased from 46% in 2002 to 50% in 2008. A large number of people read e-books, a habit reported by more than 20% of adults 18-34. With these kinds of changes in the way reading is being done in our society, the question about how to use e-readers in schools is paramount to the success of students and schools in the 21st century. We must “meet students where they are” or risk losing them altogether. Let’s first take a look at what e-readers (e-books, and e-reading) are, then we will look at how they are being used in schools and libraries, as well as the benefits and challenges with using them.
What are E-Readers?
An e-reader, also known as an e-book device or e-book reader, "is a mobile electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital e-books and periodicals. Any device that can display text on a screen can act as an e-book reader, but without the advantages of the e-paper technology.” E-Book
Popular Kinds of E-Readers
Kindles in the Classroom
The most popular e-book reader in America is the Amazon Kindle. It was launched in 2007 to a fanfare of media attention and immediately sold out its existing stock. The newest generation of Kindle sells for just $79. It has text to speech feature which potentially increases the accessibility to all users. They have a dictionary feature which can easily be accessed while reading for any word in the book as well as highlighting and note taking. Kindle needs e-books from Amazon only, however some e-books from elsewhere can be converted to work with Kindle.
In ReKindling an Interest in Reading with At-Risk Students by Melissa Engel –Unruh, she argues that gadgets like the Kindle can spark interest and get them to read in a format that teens can appreciate. Dr. Stephen Krashen, linguist and educational researcher, " . . . children who don't read for pleasure have an extremely tough time developing the language and literacy competencies necessary to succeed in today's world" (Krashen). Reading guru Kelly Callagher stresses, "If we want kids to become better readers, they have to read a lot more than they are currently reading.” Students were wowed with the Kindle and proclaimed how cool it was. Each week they came back excited to read on the Kindle and learn more about its use, says Engel-Unruh.
In E-Readers: Get Ready for the Revolution by William M. Ferriter, he has used Amazon’s Kindles in the classroom by downloading free sample chapters from popular novels. He then gives the devices to randomly selected students during silent reading period. “The success experienced by struggling readers who spend a few periods with my Kindle has been rewarding”, says Ferriter. With larger font sizes than traditional books students were turning the digital page more often. “I feel like I’m reading more on the Kindle,” said one of my boys, “and I never read a lot.” The Kindle does not have video, connect to Internet and provides no access to social media. Students sit down with the Kindle and are more likely to have a deep, meaningful reading experience than with reading on a computer or other device. Kindles have been used with a high school book club very successfully (Harland, et al. 2010). Students read more of what they wanted, were allowed to choose books to add to Kindle through school library account. They could instantly get a book and begin reading. The high school students liked the dictionary feature and felt it was comfortable on the eyes. Some quotes from students in the book club:
Mikaela said, "I almost like the Kindle better than books now. It's thinner than most books, it fits better in my backpack and I love carrying around over one hundred different books at once."
Cecilia added, "I read so much more since I had the Kindle. I probably read 3 or 4 times more than I normally would.”
Angela added, "I love reading in bed with the Kindle! It's so much easier to hold -- and if you get uncomfortable you can readjust and rotate the screen.”
How are they Utilized in Education?
A list of several ways e-readers are utilized in education:
• Reading Textbooks & Study Guides electronically
• Review Assignments
• Taking Notes
• Highlighting eTextbooks
• Class discussions (collaboration)
• Searching the Internet to do research
• Reviewing Lab experiences and exercises
• Group Projects
• Test Preparation
E-Readers in Academic Libraries
Many academic libraries are way behind on their use of e-books. While the trend for students indicates a huge increase in e-reading, academic libraries have been slow to keep up. In a study done at Penn State University Libraries, they found that e-readers are not yet the perfect reading device for the academic environment. The technology is far from where it needs to be for these devices to replace the traditional book. The problem becomes how to offer content that will work for every device patrons may use. Users in the Penn State model showed problems with the Sony e-reader in an academic setting. Functionality was not good enough yet for their purpose. They felt the technology was here to stay but more work is needed to make e-readers more interactivity with the text.
Librarian Kathy Parker, school librarian from Seneca Grade School in Illinois, has brought Kindles into the library for grade 7 and 8 students. She started by buying 6 Kindles and downloaded some titles for students. By late fall they had 18 units. The experience of Seneca School is very positive as students respond to being able to change fonts, using the text to speech feature and even having the device display the percentage of the book completed. "The bottom line for me is the Kindles have generated a love of reading among those students who would not have otherwise picked up a book," Kathy says.
Benefits of E-Readers in the Classroom
There are several benefits to using E-readers in classrooms and in education:
-Students are able to download any books or articles at any time
-Students are able to focus on the vocabulary within the book or article they have selected, as they are a click away from finding out the definition of the selected word
-Learning new vocabulary will hopefully improve their reading comprehension skills, as well as help them understand more difficult texts
-Technology will help improve student engagement in the reading
-Using e-readers in the classroom improves students attitudes and reading performance
-Can implement special reading programs through the e-readers
-Teachers can monitor students achievement
Challenges of E-Readers in the Classroom
When it comes to using e-readers for personal use, one will not find very many challenges associated to it. However, there are several concerns to implementing this technology into the classroom:
-Student responsibility with the way they take care of and handle this technology device
-Issuing students an e-reader between the cost of $79-$500 can be an expensive device, especially for theft
-This device also allows (depending on which e-reader they purchase) students to have full access to the virtual world
-Students also have to purchase the books they download, so the school or parents will have to negotiate an agreement
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Today’s students are growing up in a technologically advanced world. They use cell phones, laptops, iPods, iPads and other handheld devices as naturally as kids of the last generation used a baseball glove. Our schools must embrace and adapt to the use of these new technologies, including e-readers. E-readers are providing a new and exciting way for students to find enjoyment reading. Books are easily accessible and provides a adjustable font size feature, that has been found to improve students success in reading-especially for struggling readers. Several e-readers, including the Kindle, provide text to speech ability, which is aiding students with visual impairment, as well as those with reading difficulties to read books at a higher reading level. E-readers also allow students to use a dictionary seamlessly while reading. Note taking and highlighting features are also available.
Most importantly, e-readers are allowing students to choose what they want to read with the touch of their finger. Books can be downloaded in less than 1 minute- no waiting is necessary. We need to meet the needs of students and provide them with the best technology based education we can, as e-readers and technology are the face of our current learning generation- the 21st century.
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