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The rise of phone reading, and what that means for the Kindle Classroom Project

favicon Apparently, people are reading more and more on their phones. Please check out Jennifer Maloney’s article, “The Rise of Phone Reading,” in The Wall Street Journal.

In the last three years, according to Nielsen, the percentage of people who read primarily on their phones has jumped to 14 percent from 9 percent. On the other hand, the percentage of people who read primarily on their e-readers has plummeted to 32 percent from 50 percent.

From the article: “The future of digital reading is on the phone,” said Judith Curr, publisher of the Simon & Schuster imprint Atria Books. “It’s going to be on the phone and it’s going to be on paper.”

I think this trend is real and will likely continue. So why am I still collecting recycled Kindles and giving them to students? Shouldn’t I just encourage them to read on their phones? After all, the White House is moving in that direction, and the New York Public Library is developing an e-reading app for smartphones.

Moving to phones — as Worldreader has done — won’t work for the Kindle Classroom Project for several reasons. The most important reason the KCP cannot and does not want to rely on BYOD, or bring your own device. That’s inequitable. Plus, giving a student a Kindle is a crucial part of the program. When a teacher tells a student, “This Kindle is for you,” that means, “I care about you and your reading.”

The second reason is practical: Phones won’t work because they’re banned in most schools. The point of the KCP is to increase access to reading in order to encourage students to grow lives of the mind. That means making reading an option as often as possible, as simply as possible. If phones can’t be out, then students can’t be reading.

I won’t get into some of the other reasons — like whether phones distract students more than e-readers, or whether the phone “is antithetical to deep reading,” as neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf argues.

Sure, perhaps a trusty Kindle 2 e-reader is becoming antiquated, and maybe a few students (though I haven’t heard this from many of them) would prefer sticking with their phones to read. But overwhelmingly, students tell me they love having a Kindle and a library of 500+ books to read, along with the opportunity to request new ones whenever the like.

Source: http://j.mp/1Jixwou (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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“This Kindle is for you.”

Kindle Giftfavicon Too many programs for students have caveats and conditions. Too many rules and responsibilities. Too many if-thens.

“If you agree to do this list of items,” these programs say, “then you get these rewards.” Sign this paper, follow the requirements, and later, you’ll reap the benefits. If you don’t, too bad; your lack of follow-through demonstrates your lack of interest in the program.

I understand this reasoning. It’s an American tenet, after all, that consistent hard work leads to progress and success. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging these values in students.

But at the Kindle Classroom Project, there is a different message: “This Kindle is for you.”

This is what I tell the students when I give them their Kindle. The only rule is not to break or lose the Kindle. Otherwise, they get to use it as they like. They can read a lot or a little. They can choose what they read and request books they want.

This message emerged from conversations last year with KCP teacher and close friend Kathleen Large. Miss Large is an extraordinary teacher because she loves her students unconditionally and pushes them to a build a life of the mind. Gifts with conditions, she would argue, do not appropriately demonstrate the care, respect, and love we wish to offer our students. We must instead give and trust.

“This Kindle is for you” is powerful because it means, “I believe in you, I care about you, and I encourage you to read. This gift contains a library of books. Choose any of them to read. If you don’t find something you like, let me know, and I’ll buy it for you.”

If we want young people to read, we can’t complain that they don’t read, or say that they’re lazy, or that teen culture repudiates the quest for knowledge, or wonder why they don’t go to the library. Instead, we must put books in students’ hands.

Respected reading teacher Donalyn Miller calls on us to be “book patrons.” Here’s my favorite passage from her recent piece, “Patron of the Arts“:

“Many of my students over the years haven’t owned a single book they can call their own. It’s heartbreaking. While I recognize that many people lack the resources to purchase books, we must accept that for children to have access to books, someone—a parent, teacher, librarian, or generous donor must buy books and put them in children’s hands. If we truly value reading, the artists and publishers who create children’s books, and the children themselves, we must embrace our role as book patrons.”

According to Ms. Miller, the if-thens shouldn’t always be for our students. Rather, they should be for us. If we put books in students’ hands, then they will read.

I’m proud to be a part of the Kindle Classroom Project, and I’m very appreciative of the many donors, teachers, and students who make it possible. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “In a Mother’s Library, Bound in Spirit and in Print”

favicon Nick Bilton last week wrote an ode to physical books in “In a Mother’s Library, Bound in Spirit and in Print.” It strikes all the key notes: his mother’s passing, the inheritance of a 3,000-book library, her notes in the books’ margins, memories of childhood, and plenty of emotion.

In the piece, Mr. Bilton does not take sides on the perennial e-books vs. physical books debates. Each is good for its purpose. But if the purpose is to remember a loved one, then we know which format is better.

“In late March, a few days after my mother died from cancer, I sat in a cold living room in the north of England with my two sisters as a lawyer read my mother’s last will and testament. We were told that her modest estate would be divided evenly among her three children, with one exception.”

It always gets me thinking: Will people say the same thing about photographs? Many funerals now include hand-constructed tributes that include physical prints. What about a slideshow projected on a screen? Less emotional and impactful?

As for physical books, yes, there will always be that tactile experience, the feeling of the paper, the quality that an object takes on in an environment. It’s maybe true that a physical book offers a better reminder of having read a book.

But on the other hand, I don’t think I’ll forget reading Last Chance in Texas or Just Mercy anytime soon. Those books will stay with me even if their contents live inside my Kindle rather than on my bookshelf. favicon

Source: http://j.mp/1d7CUCM (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Where Are the Teachers of Color?”

favicon Motoko Rich’s latest piece in the New York Times asks a basic, perennial question: “Where Are the Teachers of Color?”

Ms. Rich reports that 80 percent of teachers in the United States are white. This isn’t surprising news. I don’t have the data, but my gut says that fewer people of color are going into the teaching profession now than have in the past.

This is a big problem, but it’s not one that will be solved quickly or easily. This is because teaching is underpaid and carries low status in society. The emphasis on testing — and the resulting cheating scandals, Atlanta being the most famous — probably doesn’t help, either.

Please check out the article (link below) and let me know your thoughts.

“The majority of those who successfully attend college choose careers other than education, mainly because of the pay,” said Marvin Lynn, dean of the School of Education at Indiana University in South Bend, who is starting a scholarship program for minority students interested in education careers.

Source: http://j.mp/1Cz4sX6 (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation”

favicon Motoko Rich is my favorite education reporter. She never disappoints. Her latest article, “Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation,” is solid as usual.

Though I don’t think about home schooling too often, it’s still a topic in education that gets me going. There are some cases where home schooling is probably the best move. But it’s not often, in my opinion.

From Ms. Rich’s reporting, I can infer that home schooling, for the most part, is (1) loosely regulated, and becoming less so, (2) becoming more popular with the ascent of the Common Core, (3) a Christian parents’ response to the dangerous anti-religious teachings of public schools, (4) a white parents’ response to sending their children to schools with too many kids of color. (To be fair, Ms. Rich does not discuss race directly in her article.)

Please read the article — particularly the Minecraft anecdote! — and let me know what you think, particularly if you are an advocate of home schooling. It’s important that I’m open to opposing views.

“Unlike so much of education in this country, teaching at home is broadly unregulated. Along with steady growth in home schooling has come a spirited debate and lobbying war over how much oversight such education requires.”

Source: http://j.mp/1DspEzZ (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson”

favicon I’m very impressed by the reporting and writing of Nikole Hannah-Jones. In April, she published in ProPublica a major article about the resegregation of Tuscaloosa schools.

Now, following the killing of Michael Brown, Ms. Hannah-Jones is back with another important piece, “School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson.”

The article is well-researched, well-written, and deeply disturbing.

Students who spend their careers in segregated schools can look forward to a life on the margins, according to a 2014 study on the long-term impacts of school desegregation by University of California, Berkeley economist Rucker Johnson. They are more likely to be poor. They are more likely to go to jail. They are less likely to graduate from high school, to go to college, and to finish if they go. They are more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods as adults.

Source: http://j.mp/1w7KPRG (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “The Day I Knew For Sure I Was Burned Out”

favicon Sometimes you read something about teaching and say, “Yep, that’s exactly it.” Ex-teacher Ellie Herman has written such a piece.

In “The Day I Knew For Sure I Was Burned Out,” Ms. Herman perfectly depicts what it feels like to teach in an urban public school.

I really want you to read this article — I wish Ms. Herman were a contributor to TEACHER VOICES — so I’ll share with you a few quotes:

No matter how fast or long I worked, I could not get everything done. I developed a body memory of exactly how much I could accomplish in five minutes, in one minute, in thirty seconds. I was always in a panic because I had limited control over my circumstances. Everything felt like an emergency.


There were literally days when I did not have time to go to the bathroom. What else could I cut out of my day? Breathing?

“The day I definitively and conclusively gave up, it was after six o’clock and I was making 100 copies of 11 different scenes for my Drama class. I’d been at work since before 7 a.m.; it was dark when I arrived at school and dark now. Since our school was mainly windowless, and we were always too busy to leave the building during the day, I had not seen sunlight for three days.”

Source: http://j.mp/1qPPWdt (via Pocket). (Credit to Clare Green at Impact Academy in Hayward for sharing this article with me.) You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “The War of the Words”

favicon This Vanity Fair article, “The War of the Words,” tells the story not only of the recent Amazon vs. Hachette conflict but also of the publishing business, e-books, the Apple collusion case, Goodreads, Kindles, and much more.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the ascension of e-books (27 percent of book sales in 2013) and what that means for physical books and the imminent “death of print.” This article does a good job, I think, in not casting characters as heroes and villains. After all, traditional New York publishers, backed by media conglomerates, may not the bastions of reading freedom.

It’s a long article, but if you’re interested in the book industry, I think it’s worth it.

“Amazon’s war with publishing giant Hachette over e-book pricing has earned it a black eye in the media, with the likes of Philip Roth, James Patterson, and Stephen Colbert demanding that the online mega-store stand down.”

Source: http://j.mp/1whurTh (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Is there any reason to own paper books beside showing off? Not really.”

favicon I like this piece by Andrew Couts, who argues that the only point to maintaining a library of physical books is to demonstrate your academic sophistication and snobbery.

Of course, this isn’t entirely true. Especially in schools, it’s important that students see real, physical books in classrooms. Otherwise, reading becomes even more private, where the reading “have-nots” are marginalized.

But once students are reading, there’s no need to keep buying the same physical books, over and over, and waiting for them to get lost or torn or overly used or stuck on shelves.

kindle bookshelf

“My book collection, I realized this weekend, is one of the few things in my home that makes me seem smart. Visitors step into my living room to see shelves and shelves of tomes – Hemingway, McCarthy, Kafka, Tolstoy, Franzen, Sedaris, Bukowski, Fitzgerald – each creased spine revealing more about my interests and intellect. At least, that’s what my subconscious likes to believe. Just as vacation photographs show off where we’ve been, books show where our minds have traveled. They have, in other words, become little more than an elaborate way to brag.

Source: http://j.mp/120VBSH (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “As Apprentices in Classroom, Teachers Learn What Works”

favicon Motoko Rich is my favorite education reporter. In “As Apprentices in Classroom, Teachers Learn What Works,” Ms. Rich writes about best practices in preparing new teachers for work in urban public schools.

Instead of flinging new teachers out to classrooms and letting them survive through grit and luck, Aspire Public Schools helps newbies gain confidence and skills in classroom management over a one-year residency program, focused on a much longer apprenticeship than what’s usual in teacher preparation programs.

There are some critics, of course — those who say that charter school organizations like Aspire are mechanizing teaching and teacher practices. But classroom management is by far the most important skill to master. As someone who sometimes struggled with promoting a smooth and easy classroom environment, I likely would have benefited from this program.

Please check out this article and let me know what you think!

The idea is that teachers, like doctors in medical residencies, need to practice repeatedly with experienced supervisors before they can be responsible for classes on their own. At Aspire, mentors believe that the most important thing that novice teachers need to master is the seemingly unexciting — but actually quite complex — task of managing a classroom full of children. Once internalized, the thinking goes, such skills make all the difference between calm and bedlam, and can free teachers to focus on student learning.

Source: http://j.mp/ZBzZej (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon