This semester, I used my five classroom Kindles (now six — thanks, Wil!) in two ways: (1) to promote independent reading in my Advisory, (2) to promote close reading in AP English.
Here’s what I’ve found:
1. Some students love reading on the Kindle. One of my advisees reported that she read much more this semester than ever before. Usually, I let my advisees borrow a Kindle for a month. She wouldn’t give hers back!
2. The Kindle is not as good for close academic reading as it is for immersive independent reading. One of my students in AP English said she liked annotating books on the Kindle, but most said the device was difficult to navigate. Specifically, the lack of page numbers on many titles led to student confusion and difficulty in following along in discussion with the rest of the class.
3. The Kindle is great for students who struggle with reading. One of my students used the Kindle’s text-to-speech to help her through a challenging book. The ability to change the font size on the Kindle also helps readers persist through frustration.
4. The Kindle is not great at helping students find books to read. Although my classroom Kindles hold many high-interest books, my students have trouble selecting new ones to read. That’s partly because the Kindle interface does little to connect readers to new books. Yes, you can view the book’s title, but it’s not in color. Yes, you can search the Amazon store, but that’s not ideal. After all, there’s nothing on the Kindle that’s equivalent to having a large classroom library with physical books with colorful covers.
5. The Kindle’s tech novelty wears off quickly for students — but that’s a good thing. Some students’ excitement for the E-Ink Kindle may drop over time. But what I love about the Kindle is that there are no distractions. It’s a reading device, and that’s what it’s for.
For next semester, I plan on focusing my Kindle project solely on independent reading in my Advisory. Instead of distributing my six Kindles to two different projects, I’m going to put more resources into what the Kindle is good at: immersive reading.
Because my students are seniors and ready to graduate, I have just a few months to ensure that they become lifelong readers. I look forward to the task of connecting my students to high-quality books that speak to them and challenge their perspective of the world.
One more thing: I have exciting news! This Friday, my student Antonio and I will be on The Kindle Chronicles, Len Edgerly’s podcast “all about your Kindle.” It’s an honor to be on the show, which I’ve listened to for more than a year. I hope you’ll check out the podcast this Friday!