The idea of using e-readers in my classroom came to me several years ago. As textbooks become more expensive and school budgets continue to shrink, e-readers and e-books have become a popular option for schools. After researching e-readers and programs at other schools, I decided to put a proposal together for my school.
Before launching a schoolwide program, I proposed that my school board pilot e-readers in my English classroom. As I prepared my proposal, I realized that my proposal revolved around three key questions: 1) Which e-reader best fits my school's needs? 2) How will e-readers be used? 3) How will e-readers benefit students in my classroom? These questions, along with a discussion of the benefits of e-readers, possible outcomes of the program, and the replacement cost of current materials, were all included in my proposal to use e-readers in the classroom.
Which E-reader Best Fits My School's Needs?
During the last several years, hundreds of e-readers and tablets have been introduced. As I researched, I began to note the pros and the cons of these devices. One helpful resource was a comparison sheet compiled by Michael Hyatt, the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I knew I wanted something durable and well-reviewed. I also wanted a device with a built-in Web browser for research. Cost ruled out Apple's iPad, so I decided to go with Amazon's Kindle 3. The Kindle 3 has great battery life, is very dependable, and has an experimental Web browser. As my school looks toward a full-scale implementation of e-readers, I felt I could recommend the Kindle for our students. My classroom will never be the same now that I have introduced e-readers.
How Will E-readers Be Used?
The e-readers will be used a variety of ways in my classroom pilot program. I plan to read novels, informational texts, and short stories, many of which we can download for free. One organization that provides e-books with a noncommercial Creative Commons license — which means they can be downloaded for the classroom for free — is the CK-12 Foundation. In addition, hundreds of novels and short stories can be downloaded into various e-book formats at Project Gutenberg. Barnes and Noble's Nook and Amazon's Kindle also offer free electronic titles.
Our district plan is to go with e-readers over textbooks at some point in the future, and I've found that everything from supplemental to foundational materials are available in electronic format.
How Will E-readers Benefit My Students?
E-readers and other mobile devices will benefit my students a couple different ways. For instance, vocabulary is one area that I'm focusing on this year, and the Kindle will be part of that effort. By improving vocabulary, students will hopefully improve their reading comprehension skills and understand more difficult texts. As my proposal explains, with a Kindle, students will be able to put the cursor on a word they do not know and the definition will pop up on the screen. In the past, students would not have taken the time to look up the word, and the meaning in the text would have been lost. With technology, there is a possibility that students will be more engaged in the reading. Research has shown that engaged students are the students that learn the most. In this way, e-readers in the classroom have the potentital to change student attitudes and performance.
As I researched the use of e-readers in the classroom, I found myself revisiting several Web sites, including The Unquiet Library by Buffy Hamilton. Hamilton has put together a very helpful site for schools that want to introduce e-readers into the library. The Web site provides resources and forms to get your e-reader program going.
When I was narrowing down which e-reader to purchase, I consulted the MobileRead Forum. The MobileRead Forum doesn't necessarily focus on schools, but their comparison charts and other informational posts are useful. Probably the most helpful online resource was the eBook Educators Group, which is sponsored by eReadia and discusses issues surrounding e-readers in schools.
Is your school looking to implement an e-reader program? What Web sites or resources have you found helpful?