Will Kindle Go to School?

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a new electronic book-reading device, the Kindle, just days after the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) reported a continuing decline in reading among today’s students.

…the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announces the release of To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, a new and comprehensive analysis of reading patterns in the United States. … The compendium reveals recent declines in voluntary reading and test scores alike, exposing trends that have severe consequences for American society.

For example, about 54 percent of 9-year-olds read every day for “fun;” employers consider as “deficient” in writing 72 percent of high school graduates. Dana Gioia, NEA chair comments, “Kids are doing better (reading more) at 9, and at 11. At 13, they’re doing no worse, but then you see this catastrophic falloff. If kids are put into this electronic culture without any counterbalancing efforts, they will stop reading.”

The Kindle reading device uses a new, high-resolution display technology called electronic paper, which aims to give the reader a crisp, black-and-white screen that resembles the appearance and readability of printed paper.

The screen recognizes ink, just like books and newspapers, but displays the ink particles electronically. Watch for costs to decline from the $399 initial suggested manufacturer’s retail price. Sony’s Portable Reader System, for example, sells for about $300, and the ASUS Eee (a subnotebook PC) is in the same price range.

eBooks for the Kindle cost about $10.

The Kindle is thinner than most paperbacks, weighs 10.3 ounces, and can hold about 200 books, along with newspapers, magazines, and a dictionary. Users can purchase secure-digital (SD) memory cards to increase the device’s memory.

Readers can buy and download books directly to the Kindle without a PC through SprintNextel Corp.’s high-speed EV-DO cellular network without fees or contract commitments. They also can take notes on what they read and store their notes on Amazon’s servers.

Now seems an appropriate time for teachers to buy a Tablet PC, UMPC, Kindle, Eee, or Portable Reading Service in order to learn to use them. Then, as teachers we can have an informed place at the table to address content issues, content management and licensing, and other policy decisions about ways to increase student reading and related learning rates.

What do you think: Will Kindle go to school?

Hmm. I wonder whether the NEA looked at reading rates of teachers? It would be interesting to see data that indicates relationships between teacher reading and student reading. That would be a nice master’s thesis review of lit and PhD. dissertation research for someone.

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Robert Heiny
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in [I]The Encyclopedia of Education [/I](1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for [I]TuxReports[/I].com.

1 COMMENT

  1. It should go to school when textbooks are available as well as books for reading. To be able to be in a class and take notes directly onto a page, highlight others and mark it for future reference is invaluable. The price will need to come way down though or maybe a mass buy from a group of districts can bring the price down. This may be an answer for the one computer to each student drive which would be close to impossible when adding software and updates just to keep up plus breakage.

  2. I started a thread last week in the Amazon Kindle discussion forum about a similar thought. If you want to see what people have commented about this possibility just go to Amazon’s Kindle Customer discussion forums, and look for the one called “KIndles in Schools?” THe main obstacle to achieving greater access to reading materials and textbooks seems to be the reluctance on the part of publishers to create e-book versions of their libraries.

  3. Thanks for telling us about your thread, Daddy7. I don’t know if it’s reluctance on the part of publishers to provide more ebooks, or market demand sufficient to pay for the service. I’m guessing the latter. It takes a lot of work, that means money and time, to adjust a business. Anyway, I haven’t read all of the books already available in electronic format, mostly for the price of my time to select and read them with my Tablet PC. 🙂