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Kindle Classroom Project, news and updates: July 2014

This is a lot of what happens during the summer at the Kindle Classroom Project.
This is a lot of what happens during the summer at the Kindle Classroom Project.

favicon Hi there, loyal readers and supporters of the Kindle Classroom Project! It’s summer, which means that I’m resting and relaxing, but I wanted to share with you some quick updates about the Kindle Classroom Project.

After a donation slump that lasted several months, I’m happy to report that Kindles are again arriving. Even though there are more than 150 Kindles now in the collection, it’s still a wonderful feeling to receive an email (from the Donate Kindle page’s form) that someone wants to donate their Kindle to students in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m always very appreciative of people’s generosity, and it makes me especially happy when total and complete strangers find Iserotope on the Internet, decide that the KCP is a worthy cause, and ship their Kindle to me. It’s pretty great.

Also great is that the Kindle library is beginning to grow again. My goal has never been to accumulate tons of titles; after all, anyone can go on Project Gutenberg and download out-of-print classics that no students will read (even though we might want them to). Besides, you don’t want too many books: It’s confusing to students, plus you don’t want to go over the Kindle’s capacity (~1,000 books for some models). But Kindles themselves don’t do anything until there are good books on them. That’s why I’m grateful for all the donors who have purchased books, either via the Contribute page or by checking out my students’ Amazon wishlist.

The past few months, several people have contacted me to ask why I’m focusing more of my attention on physical books. “Isn’t that taking away your energy from Kindles?” I definitely don’t think so. My goal has always been to spread reading among students; I’m not really partial to any specific medium. That said, I do believe strongly in what I call “classroom library mirroring,” where students can see physical books in the classroom and then access them on their Kindle. Without library mirroring, there’s no good way for students to browse and to discover new titles they might want to try out. Therefore, I’ve been working with teachers (via DonorsChoose, mainly) to build physical classroom libraries. If you’re pro-physical book and would like to make a contribution, please let me know!

Coming Up: This Summer’s Projects

Summer is a great time to get ready for the next year and to work on big ways to make the Kindle Classroom Project better.

I’m happy to report that the KCP will be in five schools in August — two in San Francisco, one in Berkeley, one in Oakland, and one in Hayward.

One challenge I’ve had is to build a robust data-gathering system I can study (with some scientific accuracy) the effects of the Kindles on students. Last year, I tried, but it was not too successful for a number of reasons.

So this summer, I’m creating an easy way (via Google Forms) for students to track the books they’ve completed. That data, when compared to their online reading achievement scores, will help me answer more clearly whether students who use Kindles read more and whether they become better readers as a result.

I’ll need teacher collaboration and support, of course, to ensure that students are reporting their reading. No one, after all, likes to fill out a reading log. (The Form won’t be a reading log, promise.) The good news is that I’m working with teachers (and one school librarian!) who are wonderful and incredible and understand the importance of the project. I’ll be introducing them to you beginning in August.

What else? Oh, another big project is to — finally — publish the Kindle library online, categorized by genre. I have procrastinated on this project for too long (for some good and not-so-good reasons), and it’s time to move. It’s not going to be perfect — no cataloging system is — but I’m going to do my best (and maybe ask my librarian-y friends for help).

There are tons of benefits to this cataloging project. First, it’ll be easier for students (and parents) to browse books if the classroom library is not yet mirrored. One copy of the Kindle library will be on Goodreads, so students can check out the book’s summaries and reviews to determine whether to give a book a try.

Second, it’ll make it much easier to organize the books on the Kindles. Students have access to nearly 500 titles (as long as no more than six students are reading the book simultaneously, per Amazon’s policy), and my feeling is that students will more quickly find books they want to read if they’re organized by genre. (This is very similar to why school libraries over the past two decades have moved toward cataloging by genre vs. by author for fiction and by Dewey decimal number for nonfiction.

OK, wow, this is a long post, and I can go on for longer, but I’ll stop for now. Again, I appreciate the support and the enthusiasm that you all have for young people and their reading lives, and I’m hopeful that 2014-15 will be a strong one for the Kindle Classroom Project. Thank you! favicon

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