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Research on e-readers in schools (#1)

research-paperfavicon Recently I rediscovered the excellent electronic databases at the San Francisco Public Library, which means I can get access to JSTOR and do other nerdy things.

(Not unrelated: I’m working on getting a library card from the Library at UC Berkeley. Can’t wait.)

Anyway, I got searching on JSTOR, and there are tons and tons of articles about e-readers and their effects in students, so I figured I should read some and tell you about them, because hey, the Kindle Classroom Project is working for a reason, right?

So here’s the first installment in a sometimes-series that I’m going to call “Research on E-Readers in Schools.”

E-Readers: Powering Up for Engagement
By Twyla Miranda, Kary A. Johnson and Dara Rossi-Williams
Educational Leadership, June 2012

The authors conducted a study of 199 middle school students in an urban public school in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. They found that students, especially boys, had more motivation to read during the school’s Sustained Silent Reading period if they had the opportunity to choose an e-reader in addition to physical books.

It’s not a surprise that the researchers noted that boys found e-readers exciting. I see the same thing, anecdotally, with my students. Latino boys in particular — especially those who are significantly below grade level — like reading on Kindles. It’s as if the Kindle gives them another chance to get excited about reading again.

The authors did not go into any specifics about whether e-readers helped improve students’ reading skills. My preliminary (but unscientific!) research suggests that it does. Kindlers in Oakland last year rose 1.9 grade levels, 73 percent more than their non-Kindler peers. This year, the effect is similar: Kindlers have grown 75 percent more.

(Naturally, I recognize my data’s limitations. There are many. But it’s clear that something special is happening with students who read on Kindles.)

Finally, the note many benefits to using e-readers to promote reading. All but one are very similar to those I’ve experienced. For example, students in the study reported that there is no gap between finishing one book and starting another. The e-reader allows different font sizes, and some students liked using text-to-speech. My students say the same thing.

The only difference is that the middle schoolers in Dallas-Fort Worth also liked highlighting and annotating their books. I haven’t seen my students do much of that, though they do like making their own collections. It might be a good idea to introduce my students to that feature (along with others) in our monthly Kindle meetings.

Next up, I’ll try to find some articles that have some hard research on whether Kindle help raise reading scores. Do you think it’s out there? favicon

Please share your brilliant insights!