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Is there a role for the Kindle in the Classroom?

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Following a brief discussion on improving literacy in the classroom on the weekly #edchatie Tweet meet, the topic of Kindles came up. The Kindle is an electronic eBook reader made by Amazon.  Though it is not the only eBook reader on the market, it is by far the most popular.  The reason for this is that the Kindle uses a technology that emulates print as it would appear on a book.  There is no backlight and the “ink” looks like the same ink you would find in a book.  Kindles allow you to instantly download books from the Amazon store and can store thousands of books at a time.  The Kindle also has a huge battery life due to the small amount of energy it uses.

It is very tempting to see that the Kindle has the potential to replace textbooks in classrooms.  It’s much cheaper than an iPad and it doesn’t have the added distractions of other apps.

Another interesting thing about Kindles is the ability to share notes.  For example, if I’m reading a piece of a text that I think it good or interesting or important, I can annotate it and share it with others.   James Corbett defines social annotation well when writing about his take on the same topic.

I can see something like this working very well in secondary schools as it’s perfectly tailored to how the Leaving Cert system works.  I’m sure I’m being terribly rudimentary in my take on this.  It sums up how I got through my Leaving Cert though.

Read a book, make notes and learn them off before regurgitation.

The value of the Kindle is that when I annotate a piece of text, others are doing the same.  Their notes could be links to interesting web sites, which explain concepts further or to show a video outlining the points made.

However, social annotation may not be useful to an 8 year old in 3rd class.  Like many things, stuff that works at second level has no place at primary level,  (cf Moodle).

There are many reasons that I believe a Kindle doesn’t work at primary level.  Firstly, and most simply, it’s not a very colourful device.  It also has little in the way of interactivity, though teachers could design links from selections of text if they want.  Another problem is the fact that recent research shows that children find it easier to read from a screen than paper today.  Something like a Kindle is aimed at people who do not like reading from a screen.  However, like any device or resource that one brings to a classroom, one has to ask, how does it enhance learning?  To paraphrase the famous “If it looks like a duck…” quote:

“If it looks like a book, and reads like a book, it’s probably a book.”

Essentially,  at primary level, I believe that that’s all the Kindle is.

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