Tagged: e-readers

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The Kindle Classroom Project promotes reading. That’s great. But what if it promotes the death of the physical book?

favicon I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about whether the Kindle Classroom Project is contributing in a small way to the death of print books and thereby is sabotaging one of the program’s primary objectives: to reduce the gap between the reading haves and have-nots.

It’s best to write about these thoughts, rather than pretend they don’t exist.

The argument goes like this: Though the KCP may solve one huge problem (getting good books in students’ hands), it ultimately discourages independent reading in the long run. This is because the program focuses on Kindles, thereby discrediting and dishonoring the physical book as the primary means of reading over the past 500 years.

So if the program urges students to read on Kindles and does not offer physical books as an alternative, what happens when the Kindles get returned or stop working? What then?

Over the past week or two, whenever I feel like I have an answer, I quickly sidestep and consider an opposing view.

Like this morning, when I learned about Out of Print, a documentary by Vivienne Roumani. Please check out the trailer.

I can’t wait to see this film — and am secretly hoping it’ll come to San Francisco and play at a film festival, or maybe at the Roxie.

My big thought is, I know that Kindles work. Over the past three years, I’ve seen it again and again. Many students reclaim their love of reading with a Kindle. Other students love the Kindle because it’s like having a library in their backpack, with no worries of overdue fines or waiting for books to become available. Still others love to change the font size or look up words using the built-in dictionary. It’s pretty clear that Kindles do offer affordances that the physical book cannot.

But I also think that there has to be a place for physical books in the Kindle Classroom Project. After all, the KCP is a reading program, not a technology program. The point is not to disrupt an antiquated technology system. Instead, it’s mean to disrupt an unjust social system.

Besides, physical books do a couple things better than e-readers and e-books. Namely, they’re good at building reading relationships between a teacher and a student — a crucial step in bringing students back to reading. Also, print books are way better for discovery — to help students find what they’ll read next.

So I’m trying to figure out the best way to incorporate physical books into the Kindle Classroom Project without diluting the major thrust of the program. No decisions yet, but I think I’m getting close. Let me know your thoughts in the comments! favicon

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Are physical books better than e-books?

Research on e-readers in schools (#2)

Kindle Deckfavicon My good friend Pete sent me this article last week, which summarizes a forthcoming study that suggests that students reading on Kindles comprehend less than those reading on paper.

This debate has been a fiery one ever since e-readers first emerged in 2007. I think it’s an important debate.

But I also think it’s important to look at what the latest study does and doesn’t say. New York Times reporter Stephen Heyman’s “Reading Literature on Screen: A Price for Convenience” does a good job getting down to details.

Some background:
+ The study involved 50 graduate students from Norway and Sweden,
+ The students read a 28-page short story,
+ The students read on a Kindle DX. (Do those still exist?)

Some findings:
+ Students reading on Kindles had similar emotional responses as students reading on paper,
+ There was no significant difference among the students on questions involving the short story’s setting, characters, and plot,
+ Students reading on Kindles did significantly worse reconstructing the order of major plot events. Students reading on paper did much better.

Based on this study, lead researcher Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger in Norway believes that there is something about the tactile experience of handling paper that helps the brain keep track of plot:

When you read on paper, you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right. [The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.

Though her study included just 50 students, and those students were 20+ years old, Prof. Mangen might be right. It’s altogether possible that reading on paper is superior to reading on E Ink, especially when it comes down to high-level reading comprehension. By no means do I think that we should eradicate physical books in schools.

But I also think it’s crucial not to go crazy and call for the immediate destruction of all Kindles.

If you’re an English teacher, and you want students to do a close read of a challenging text, the Kindle is not for you.

On the other hand, if you’re an English teacher, and you want your students to read voluminously, and to like reading, and to choose their own books, and to build an independent reading program, and to help struggling readers find their place, I’m pretty certain that it doesn’t matter if you choose Kindles or physical books.

As I’ve emphasized many times, I’m not particularly interested in any debate that has an either-or answer. If the question is, Should students read on Kindles or on paper, I say, Both. favicon

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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