Tagged: kindle

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TEACHER VOICES: Marni Spitz, #7

“I’ve changed my mind about Kindles.”

ms. spitz 4favicon I’ve changed my mind about Kindles. (I’ve also changed my mind about which Janet Jackson album is my favorite, but that is blog post for another time.)

Back to the Kindles: It’s not that I never liked them, it’s just that I was always on the side of real, tangible, physical books. You know—books. Turning the pages! Judging the covers! (You know you do.) Bookshelves! Oh, the bookshelves! And of course, that incomparable feeling that happens when you close your book on that final page, look up, and relish in its completion. When it came to books (and my taste in pajamas), I was traditional and old-fashioned. But now, I am all aboard the Kindle Train. Toot! Toot! (But I still love me a matching flannel set of PJs.)

What caused this radical transformation, you may ask? It wasn’t my own Kindle-reading experience, but rather it was witnessing the incredible happiness and reading-frenzy that Kindles have sparked in my kiddos.


Here’s what happened: I got 20 Kindles to loan out to my young readers (thank you, Kindle Classroom Project!) and started dealing them out like crazy in my Reading Lab classes. Before you knew it, I was the Stringer Bell of Kindles! I was the Lucious Lyon of a Kindle Empire! And with each day, the Kindle following spread like a Taylor Swift song. Kids who weren’t even in my Reading Lab were requesting Kindles. In fact, kids who weren’t even my students were requesting Kindles. I simply did not have enough to meet the demand.

So I did what any successful Kindle dealer would do—channeled my inner Stringer Bell and widened my turf: I got more! Twenty more! I now have half my Reading Labbers hooked on their Kindles, including a few of those sassy pants who at the beginning of the year unabashedly told me there was nothing I could do to help them like reading. Look at you now, sassy pants! You can’t get enough of your Kindle! (Cue told-you-so smirk and giggle.) Kindles have been nothing less than magic for my young readers in a way I never could have imagined.

One huge Kindle Classroom perk that I have observed from Kindle-dealing is the infinite access to books. While I absolutely love my classroom library (bookshelves!) and love the value on reading it communicates, it can be limiting. At most, I have five copies of a certain book. But with their Kindles, my students have an endless library at their fingertips. They really have the whole world in their hands! No more, “Oh I’m sorry, Honey! Perfect Chemistry is all checked out!” or “I’m sorry, Sweetie! I don’t have the third book in the Maze Runner series!” or the saddest of all: “ I’m sorry, Darling! We don’t have that one.”

When those conversations happened, my students would would have to wait forever to get the book they wanted. And when that happens, when you can’t put a book that a kid requested in their hands, that is just heartbreaking. But Kindles mean they can read any book they want, when they want, how they want. (Like Hulu, but for books! And completely free for my kiddos! Free Hulu for everyone!)


It’s absolutely awesome. When a student like Starr, who has received almost more referrals than any other freshman but loves Reading Lab because she has a Kindle, that is awesome. When a student like Damaria, an 11th grader who loves reading so so much but lives far from the nearest library gets to have a Kindle and read to his heart’s content, that is awesome. When a student like Elaine, who always showed up to First Period late starts coming to First Period on time (and even early) so she can maximize the SSR time on her Kindle, that is awesome.

In simple terms, Kindles make reading easy and limitless. There are no hurdles, no hoops to jump through. And for students who have experienced reading in their lives as something filled with countless hurdles and hoops, a hurdle-free experience is just what they deserve and just what they need to find their inner-reader. The Kindle says: “We want you to be able to read any book you want, free of hassle.” favicon

Ed. note: Marni Spitz teaches U.S. History and Reading Lab at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco. Donate to Marni’s classroom!

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Kindle donations are getting super stylish

favicon The Kindle Classroom Project brings me a ton of joy.

The best part, of course, is hanging out with students and witnessing how Kindles help them love reading again.

The second best part is receiving Kindle donations in the mail. From all across the country, usually from people I have never met, Kindles arrive magically on my porch. They’re always packed safely in tidy boxes, complete with bubble wrap or tons of newspaper. It’s clear how committed people are to giving students the gift of reading.

Lately, Kindle donations have become very stylish. Here are a few examples:


That snappy Kindle is from Lori (Woodbridge, VA). Nice skin, don’t you think? A lucky ninth grader from Oakland gets this Kindle next week. Here’s the back:


Who wouldn’t want to read on that Kindle? (Thanks, Lori!)

I also want to thank Sam (North Potomac, MD) for continuing the charge of another recent trend —  donations of Kindle Paperwhites. What’s great about the Paperwhite is that students can read at all hours of the night. Here’s the one that Sam donated:


The case is top-of-the-line, too. The Oakland ninth grader who gets this Kindle is also extremely lucky!

It’s November, so the holiday season is coming up, which means I predict that more generous donors will send me their Kindles. It’s not a long shot to to think that we might have 200+ Kindles by the end of the year.

Thank you to Lori and Sam and all KCP donors! favicon

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Why Kindles in addition to physical books

13 Stack of Kindles
This is how many Kindles there were two years ago. There are more now.

favicon Tonight I’m registering and charging Kindles and getting them ready for students next week. It’s a methodical process.

It gets me reflecting about why I started the Kindle Classroom Project in the first place—and why it should continue.

You see, I’m not against physical books, and by no means do I make a categorical claim that Kindles do a better job of promoting reading. Though Kindles do offer some benefits over physical books—text-to-speech, variable type size, a built-in dictionary—I am not certain those features outweigh the tactile comfort of physical books. You can’t exactly curl up with a Kindle. A physical book is an object in the world, after all, and some young readers say they like to a feel a book’s heft, to flip its pages, to follow their progress by noticing pages move from their right to left hand.

But here’s something that’s also true: Most students who like physical books are already readers. They have a good relationship with reading. They have come in contact with many physical books, whether at home or in a bookstore or a library.

I want all students to read, but my main interest is with adolescents who struggle with reading or say they hate it. With those students, I’ve found that Kindles entice them. Particularly with Latino boys who read several years below grade level, Kindles are intriguing. The tech level is low, and the Kindles are clunky, but there’s something magical that happens when you hold a 501-book library in your hands.

Maybe it’s this: With a physical book, you hold the depth of one story. With a Kindle, you hold the breadth of many.

Besides the magic, there’s the economics. No matter how much we like physical books, we’re not seeing very many of them in urban public schools. School libraries are scanty, and librarians are sparse. It’s expensive to buy, circulate, and keep track of physical books, and for a number of reasons, few public urban districts (except San Francisco, a beacon) are funding school libraries.

Kindles are cheaper than physical books. Let’s do a math problem, sound good?

Say you have 162 students and you want them to be reading all the time. You have 501 physical books in your classroom library, but some titles are more popular than others, so just to be sure, you purchase six copies of each book. What’s your investment?

Hmm, um, 501 titles x 6 copies each x $10 each = $30,060.

OK, now let’s do the same thing with Kindles. The education rate for a basic Kindle (if you don’t get them donated, like I do) is $49. And Amazon lets six people read a book at the same time. Therefore:

(162 students x $49 per Kindle) + (501 titles x $10 each) = $12,948.

That’s a considerable savings. But let’s say that you want to buy one physical copy of each title so that students can browse the shelves before reading a book on their Kindle:

$12,948 + (501 physical books x $10 each) = $17,958.

Still a big savings, right? Now, the kicker: The physical books move around—from student to student, home to home, backpack to backpack, whereas the Kindles pretty much stay still. You know where I’m going with this, right? The amount of loss and damage of physical books in urban schools is, well, staggering. Though I don’t have any hard data, I’d estimate that a 3,000-book library with 162 students would incur a $500 – $700 loss each year. That means buying back books instead of broadening your collection.

Sure, Kindles break, too, but not that often. Last year, 5 broke—certainly not ideal, but about $250 to replace, much less than $500.

So I think it’s safe to say that Kindles offer a significant cost benefit over physical books. But perhaps even more important, they provide students more immediate access to books.

When a student finishes a physical book, she needs to return it, check it back in, look for a new book, see if it’s available, and check it out. This process seems easy but involves several people, including maybe the teacher or a student librarian. There is a lot of signing in and signing out, a lot of potential for mistakes, and a possibility that students will check out a book without going through the process. I haven’t met a teacher who enjoys keeping track of circulation.

With Kindles, there’s none of that headache. When a student finishes a book, she looks for another one, clicks on it, and begins reading. Easy as pie. Fewer moving parts, fewer chances for mess-ups. And, ultimately, more chances to keep reading.

All of this is to say that I’m happy that the Kindle Classroom Project exists and is going strong. The program promotes reading, especially for students who may not like reading otherwise, and it does so in a cost-mindful way.

My favorite part is that regular people across the country seem to agree. The Kindles keep coming in, and I keep registering them and charging them and getting them ready for students. 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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Kindles are just $49 for a limited time! Give a ninth grader the gift of reading.

Kevin Kindlefavicon Sarah (Logan, UT) just informed me that Amazon.com has a Mother’s Day sale on Kindles for a limited time. The basic Kindle is now just $49. The Kindle Paperwhite is $99.

That’s amazing.

This sale is perfect for those of you who really want to make a donation to the Kindle Classroom Project but don’t have a Kindle lying around. Maybe $69 is too pricey, because yes, that’s a lot of money. But $49 seems much less, and it’s certainly under $50, which feels right.

Is this you?

Or maybe you’re a person who really wants to buy your mom a Kindle for Mother’s Day, and it sure wouldn’t hurt, you’re thinking, to buy an additional one for ninth graders in the Bay Area.

Either way, I’ve made it simple to purchase a Kindle for my students. You can choose your own adventure and try it on your own, or you can follow these steps.

First, click here to go to my students’ Amazon wishlist. Then you’ll get this screen:


Click “Add to Cart.” Then click “Proceed to Checkout.” At this point you might have to log in, and once you do, you’ll be directed to the shipping address page.

Good news: There is a “Gift Registry Address” already ready to be clicked. Click “Ship to this address.”

The next screen is a bit weird. It’s called, “Select gift options.” It looks like this:


Make sure to select that you’d like the Kindle to be registered to “another account,” not yours. And if you’d like, please include a free personalized gift message. My lucky student will be happy.

After that screen, you move into payment options, credit cards, and all the normal stuff when buying something online.

All right: Let’s see if this happens! If I write something up on Iserotope, and it goes out into the cyberspace, will loyal Iserotope readers take on this charge and either (a) make a Kindle donation, or (b) spread the word so that others will make a Kindle donation?

If you are in the (a) camp, please be extra bold and leave a BRILLIANT COMMENT confirming that you have accepted my challenge. It’s time that you’re proud of your contribution (unless you want to remain anonymous, of course, which is always an option)!

If you’re in the (b) camp, consider sharing this post. The easiest way is to select one of the social sharing buttons below. Thank you!

Update, May 1, 9:06 p.m. — We have liftoff! The wishlist says 1 Kindle has been purchased. Confirmation: That, indeed, is true. Thank you, Wil (New York, NY), for donating a Kindle! (It’s the second Kindle Wil has donated. Plus, he’s a sustaining contributor to the KCP.) Also, 6 people have shared the post so far. Thank you for getting the word out.

Update, May 3, 9:05 p.m. — It looks like two more Kindles have been purchased. But I don’t know (yet) who the donor is! Whoever you are, thank you!

Update, May 5, 8:43 a.m. — Oh no, the sale is over (for now). But the good news is, I received Wil’s Kindle and am awaiting the other two. Thank you again! favicon

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Will Kindles help the lowest-skilled readers?

favicon We’re about to find out!

Beginning next week, a teacher in Hayward will launch a Kindle reading intervention for the eight lowest-performing readers in the 10th grade. The cohort will meet for an hour once a week, focus on the personal and cognitive domains of the Reading for Understanding framework, and read a lot on Kindles.

The six boys and two girls, on average, read at a third or fourth grade level. Most reading specialists and researchers would argue that the students need an intensive, one-on-one program to accelerate their reading growth.

That is likely possible, but the teacher and I are exploring another possibility. What will happen if we build a strong community of readers, where there is support rather than stigma? And what if we use Kindles to encourage voluminous reading?

There’s no guarantee that this will work. But it did last year with a similar group, when students gained more than a grade level in their reading in less than two months.

The intervention will run until June, at which point the teacher and I will analyze the data and see how the students did. In addition to reading scores, we’ll look at some other metrics to determine the success of the program.

I can’t wait to see what happens! favicon

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Donate your Kindle this holiday season!

KCP Class 2012favicon Did you buy a new Kindle this past weekend?

Maybe it’s the new Kindle Fire HDX? Or perhaps the Paperwhite?

Whichever model you chose, you made a great decision. Whether it’s for you or for a loved one, buying a Kindle means that you care about reading.

But now you face a tough decision. What should you do with your old (and beloved) Kindle? Up until today, it was your go-to reading device. It was always there, waiting for you, ready to be read. And just like that, your old Kindle is being replaced by a new and snazzy one.

Your old Kindle feels lonesome. Abandoned. Unwanted.

Your old Kindle needs a new home.

This holiday season, make your Kindle happy again. Please donate your Kindle to one of my students in San Francisco, Oakland, and Hayward.

For the past three years, I’ve collected Kindles and loaned them to ninth graders to encourage them to read more. So far, the Kindle Classroom Project is working. Generous donors have contributed 87 used Kindles so far. I’m trying to get to 100 Kindles before the New Year.

The students absolutely love reading on their Kindles. And they read much more than those who read physical books. Even their reading test scores go up. It’s exciting.

If you don’t have a Kindle to donate, be on the lookout for friends who are upgrading. Or visit the Contribute page: there are 7 ways to help. Thank you! favicon

Update, December 2015: Two years have passed since this post. In that time, generous people from across the country have donated more than 525 Kindles.

Update, December 2016: Now the total is up to 1,376 Kindles after a booming year. Thank you to all the supporters!

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(Still) my favorite Amazon Kindle advertisement

favicon The holiday season is here, which means your TV will likely be inundated with commercials prompting you to buy the latest gadgets.

Amazon no doubt will encourage you to buy Kindle Fire HD or the Kindle Paperwhite. But I am not moved (too much). My heart still goes out for the Kindle Keyboard: no fancy videos or pictures, built-in text-to-speech, and a full-on keyboard for highlights and annotations.

Plus, the Kindle Keyboard had a really good commercial for the holidays:

This commercial aired three years ago, when the Kindle Keyboard was the latest version, and when the Kindle Fire didn’t exist yet. Even though the ad is old, it understands what happens when we connect a kid’s curiosity to the world of books. favicon

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Time to get serious: 100 Kindles by the New Year!

kindle-ribbonfavicon A few months back, I got the crazy idea that maybe we could hit the 100-Kindle mark by 2014. Wouldn’t that be a nice big round number to reach? Though I could be wrong, this wishful thinking likely came in June (a 12-Kindle month) or September (a 10-Kindle month).

Now it’s late-November, and the Kindle donations continue to come in, albeit more slowly. Just last week, I was close to abandoning the 100-Kindle dream, content with the current state of the Kindle Classroom Project, where lots of Kindles are in lots of students’ hands, and lots of students are reading lots of books as a result.

But Mary’s donation today of the 87th Kindle (thanks, Mary!), along with promises that Kindles #88 and #89 will arrive next week, has emboldened me anew. Are we really just 11 Kindles away from the magic number? If so, this is possible, right? Maybe?

With your help, I think it’s possible to reach the 100-Kindle goal.

Here are some ways that you can help:

1. Be on the look-out for Kindle owners who want to upgrade.
Does one of your friends read on a Kindle 2? Wouldn’t that friend want to upgrade to the Paperwhite? Encourage your friend to do so and then donate her old one to the Project.

2. Tell your family, if they celebrate Christmas, to make a contribution to a good cause.
Then, tell your family that this year’s good cause is reading, and direct them to my students’ Amazon Wishlist, where it’s super fast and easy to purchase a new Kindle. Sure, $69 is a lot of money, but if a few family members go in on it, it’s not so costly.

3. Scour Craiglist ads for Kindles and persuade would-be sellers to donate.
This one takes more patience and skill. But it’s a bit addictive once you get the hang of it! I’ve been successful in convincing a few folks on Craigslist (probably 4-5 so far) to forego the $40 they could gain by selling their Kindle and to donate it instead. Suggestion: If you’re successful, don’t go picking up the Kindle on your own. Have the person ship it, or tell me, and I’ll pick it up. 🙂

4. Get the word out about the Kindle Classroom Project.
The more people know about it, the better. Facebook is good. So is Twitter. Best, though, is if you have a personal blog and write a post about the Project. My friend and generous sustaining donor Iris (San Diego, CA) wrote this post in April, and 8-10 Kindles have come from folks who originally read her post before finding my Donate Kindle page. It’s pretty amazing. So yes, if you would be willing to write a quick post (with “donate kindle” in the headline, for best results!), I would be extremely appreciative.

Also, if you have other ideas, please let me know. With your help, I really do think that it’s possible to reach 100 Kindles by the New Year. Let’s do it! favicon

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Kindle batteries don’t last long

Kindle-Battery-Emptyfavicon A new problem emerged yesterday at the Kindle Classroom Project. I was charging up some Kindles to get them ready for students, and more than a few of them didn’t work. Either an empty battery icon remained on the screen, or the Kindle wouldn’t wake from its screensaver.

This is a big problem. I haven’t counted yet, but this problem may affect up to 15 Kindles. Confirmed so far: 8 Kindles.

Here’s what’s particularly not good: Kindle batteries don’t last long, and when you call Amazon Customer Support for help, representatives say there’s nothing they can do except offer you refurbished models for $50.

I don’t like this. Everyone knows that batteries don’t last forever. When the batteries on my Walkman died, back in the ’80s, I put in new batteries, and then my Walkman worked again. The same thing just happened with my Samsung phone. A new battery means the device is as good as new.

Why can’t the same thing be true for the Kindle? Is it because Amazon wants to force us to buy new shiny products when the old ones work just fine? It doesn’t make sense, particularly because I’m sure Amazon makes much more profit on its e-books than it does on its e-readers.

Or maybe Amazon doesn’t want its customers to hand down their Kindles to family members or donate them to students.

Instead of just venting, I need to figure out what to do next. There are many batteries online that I can buy, and there are many videos on YouTube that demonstrate how I can change a Kindle battery. But if you ask Amazon representatives, all of them say that it can’t and shouldn’t be done.

I’d like to do things the responsible way, and Amazon has helped make the entire Kindle Classroom Project a reality. But something just doesn’t feel right here.

Please let me know your thoughts! favicon