Christopher Daley

Christopher Daley
Somewhere Inside My Brain, California, USA
October 16
I am a school teacher who still wants to be a published writer when I grow up. I think that all children are not the same and any system that treats them that way is broken. Most people think I am not completely right in the head but they have no idea how bad it truly is in there.


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JANUARY 13, 2012 12:58AM

Kindle In The Classroom

Rate: 14 Flag

I recently read an article in the New York Times about teachers in Idaho resisting their states push of technology into their classrooms. A lot of the article made it seem like once again teachers were afraid of being replaced by a computer and/or losing money to technology which could have been spent on salaries. I would love to be paid more but being paid more doesn’t mean shorting our students in the classroom.

Teachers will not be replaced in the classroom for a long time still. However, technology used correctly needs to happen now. As someone who has worked in a school district which has wasted money on technology I understand some people’s fears. This doesn’t change the fact that our students live in a vastly different world. They understand technology and thrive in its use. We can’t keep pretending we can shove the old way of learning down their throats.

I love technology and embrace using it in my room. I am a slightly above average math teacher. My true gift is language arts, in particular getting reluctant readers to read. I have sought out math lessons in the internet when I have struggled to teach a concept to my class. If someone out there knows how to do it better than I would be doing a disservice to my students not to seek it out.

Recently, I got into an argument with someone over using the Amazon Kindle in my classroom. They bemoaned the loss of actual books. Thought it was a shame students were reading on an electronic device. To which I replied, “hogwash!” Books are the delivery of words into a student’s imagination. How they are delivered there, makes no difference. My classroom Kindle is so popular the waiting list is silly long. My students like it so much they have raised the money to buy a second one. We have also convinced the school to buy us 5 more.

When I say my students, I mean all of my students. I have never found a better way to get a reluctant reader into a book. Do you know how hard it is to get a far below grade level 6th grader to read? One of the main reasons is shame. They don’t want anyone to know they are reading a 3rd grade book. They would rather act defiant or claim a dislike of reading. This just isn’t the case with Kindle. No one knows what you are reading. I have several reluctant readers who have devoured books on the Kindle. They have both already jumped a grade level and moved into harder books. You can’t get better if you don’t practice.

When it comes to reading this has been my most successful class ever. This is really saying a lot because I really am good at putting kids into books. Kids are begging to read this year. The coolness and anoymonity of the Kindle have a lot to do with this. I am glad my school has trusted me to pilot more Kindles. I would buy a class set if I could. Technology is only as good as the way you use it. For me e-readers (in this case Kindles) have been technological gold.

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My only beef with the Kindle is that it limits purchases to one bookstore. Amazon is the 500 lb. gorilla with publishers, and they aren't always nice to their consumers either. I'd like to see the technology develop to the point where the reading device is independent of the retailer.

However, all your other points about reading from an electronic device are spot-on. Great!
I actually blame the publishers more than Amazon. Their insistence that DRM be placed on their books feeds people to Amazon. Once you have bought a device you are going to use it. The DRM means I am stuck with Amazon. I put books from Fictionwise on my Amazon but if I need a particular book for my classroom I can't shop around. Take away the DRM and I can.
As a teacher also of below level readers, your essay gives me hope. Our new superintendent is gung-ho about purchasing laptops for each student in the high school and I-pads for the elementary, yet I would be more than happy with either Kindles or Nooks in the classroom to get the kids reading. Books, even under guidance, have a tendency to get destroyed when a few kids get bored during class. I like the ease that an e-reader can be used and taken from room to room. Unfortunately where I work we wouldn't be able to trust the devise leaving the school as it may never return!

We as a school talked about incorporating I-pods at one time, but that seems to have been tabled for another time as we do not have an IT teacher to teach proper & responsible usage.

Keep teaching on!
As a book store owner who's not particularly fond of Kindles, I applaud your use of them in your classroom. I had never thought of them as a tool to get reluctant or below grade level readers to read. That you did shows that you deserve better than the "slightly above average" grade you gave yourself. Great job.
There are lots of free eBooks available that can be converted to a format that is compatible with Kindle.
I'm also a bookseller -- an online bookseller at that. That's required me to describe in detail the condition of the books I hope to sell, a few of which were produced centuries ago.

I relish and appreciate books -- their construction, their fragrance, the feel of their paper, the craftsmanship that old books can have. It can be a very sensual relationship.

Did mention that I read books and that I've written one or two?

Last month, I got my 10-year-old grandson what he wanted for Christmas -- a Kindle. He was ecstatic. Not only did his pleasure in his gift bring joy my way, when I heard what he was reading on it, I was doubly pleased. He's already finished "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and is working his way through that book's singular sequel, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

Coleman is a reader; he's gone through all sorts of books beyond his age range. He's done so with hardbacks and paper and with audio books. The Kindle was just the next step for him. It's coolness is a big factor. I suspect he feels as at home in its sleek, silent presence as I do sitting in the shadow of a wall full of "real" books. He might one day have discovered Twain without the Kindle's help, but I'm glad he didn't wait.

The kicker? I bought one for myself two weeks after Coleman opened his present. And it's cool, it's very cool. I completely understand why your students would be similarly enthralled. Kudos to you for not being cowed by prejudice and sentimentalism, not to mention misguided teacherly self-protection.
This would be a great column if you said e-reader, not Kindle. The effects wouldn't have changed, but I have serious concerns about Amazon's dominance of the e-reader market.

That being said, I strongly support e-readers instead of text books. My kids' school weighed their backpacks and just about every single one weighed more than the approved amount for their age. It was all text books. My daughter will frequently not bring a text book home if the home work isn't due the next day because of weight issues --- and she gets driven to and from school. This is weigh from locker to car, not school to home.
another good thing about the Kindle is that if you put the cursor before a word, it will give you the definition. Excellent learning tool.
Makes sense. We need to keep an open mind. :)

I believe the Kindles will downoad just about any format from any site. The Kindle DX is the one that is being developed for textbooks. It is big and if you rotate it to landscape formate it will display both pages of a text book.

To my knowledge these textbooks are not yet available. Further, there is an issue with cost. The Kindle DX is expensive. I suppose Amazon could arrange with schools to buy Kindles instead of the actual books.

However, I have been watching this stuff for decades and it seems inevitable.
I taught at the forefront of integrating technology into the classroom when there was no kindle or e-reading. A creative teacher can find ways of engaging his students as you have done. I agree: "Technology is only as good as the way you use it." Bravo.
Yes to e-readers! I've devoured many a book on my Kindle. Certainly more so than I would have read otherwise because it's just flat out more convenient to carry volumes around in a lightweight device, and yes, also because it's cool. If you've found a way to get kids excited about the printed--digitally or otherwise--word, good for you and good for your students.
I love my Kindle but I told my 5th grader "no way" when she asked for one. It was a bummer for me AND for her, because she reads voraciously! (As do I!) The problem: I've been through FOUR Kindles in a year. This is the only device I've broken in my entire life -- I've never broken a screen, a smart phone, a cell phone of any kind, a laptop, etc. I am careful. Amazon has replaced them all (manufacturing defect, or courtesy), but each time it's a week before you get the new one, charge it, get it up and running. And after the very FIRST device --- you only get refurbs. So, of course, subsequent devices are either glitchy (one had non-functioning folders, quirky stuff like that) or they also break easily. I think until they are able to improve the physical device so it doesn't break so easily, it's not the best idea for kids.
I have a family member who is an 11-year old special needs student who has CP, which causes delays in auditory processing and limits her to the use of just one of her upper limbs. She received a Kindle Fire for Christmas, taught herself to use it and all of the apps and other materials loaded on it. She refuses to go anywhere without it. It has opened up the world to her. I hope her teachers will be as open-minded as you are when it comes to envisioning the potential in these kinds of tools.