Friday, June 29, 2012

My Kindle Classroom Won't Be Built In a Day

In my original vision of my Kindle classroom, I planned to contact the students in my classes at the beginning of summer.  The email would look something like this:

I am really excited that you are going to be in my English class next year.  I wanted to let you know about a cool opportunity you have for how you read your class texts in English next year.  

Some of you may have seen the "What's on My Kindle?" poster in my window, or you may have seen me with my Kindle.  I am planning to use my Kindle instead of paper copies of our texts, and now you can too!  

Do you own a Kindle, a Nook or any other e-reader?  If so, you are welcome (encouraged!) to purchase an e-copy of the class texts and use your e-reader.  

"Why use e-texts?  What about active reading?" you ask.  

Great questions!

Why e-texts?
 One slim e-reader can hold all your books so you don't have to dig through your locker and it will lessen your back strain.  If you have a Kindle, you can see all of your books on your laptop as well through the Kindle for PC app.  Also, e-texts don't use paper, so we save some trees.  Yay trees!

What about active reading?
 Did you know that you can highlight with just your fingertip (on the Kindle Touch, for example) and then type notes?  Did you know that you can share these notes and highlights on social media?  You can also see what your classmates and I have highlighted--as we read.  All of my notes and highlights (and the marks of all your peers) are public on a special amazon page just for Kindles.    

"But wait, I don't have a Kindle.  Do I have to go out and buy one?"  

No!  This new Kindle experiment is just another equally valid option to paper texts if you already have a Kindle.  If you would like to get a taste of what it's like to read with an e-reader, the library has many Kindles with books already loaded on them that you can check out.

So, that was the plan.  Reality interfered, however.

The first roadblock is scheduling.  I won't get my actual section lists until right before school starts in August.  Presumably, all of the students have already purchased their books, so the parents of kids who have Kindles and want to use them instead of paper would not be too keen on their daughter asking to purchase them again in e-book form.  Possible solution: they kept the receipts and they can return the paper copies.  Or, the parent doesn't mind double purchasing the book.  One idea I floated to my department was that I could email the entire freshman and sophomore classes and tell them that if they have a Kindle, they should hold off buying the paper copies until they see whose section they are in.  That one was a no-go from the department.  Too confusing--kids might show up to another teacher's class with Kindles.

The second roadblock is the possible stress to parents.  Parents are under a lot of pressure these days, and they might perceive this as a maxim to go out and buy Kindles for their daughters.  This is most definitely NOT the message, but I wouldn't want to put any additional strain on anyone.

So, my grand symphonic idea has become something more akin to me on the corner playing a saxophone.  For now.  A revolution begins with one person.  I will be using my Kindle to teach, using the app to project important excerpts in class, sharing my notes and highlights on Twitter and using the interface to house all of my notes and marks for a text.  Perhaps it is too much to hope that a student will use her Kindle in class as well.  What I am hoping is that the Kindle users in my classes will use their Kindles for independent reading (outside reading is required each semester.)  The library has a bunch of Kindles for loaning, and I actually have my old Kindle2 on my desk.  I might loan that out to a different student each unit so that can try it out, see if it suits them.

I know there is a lot skepticism out there, so I will lead by example.  Stay tuned!


  1. No skepticism here! I'm an English teacher in San Francisco, and I share your enthusiasm for Kindles and teaching with them.

    So far, I've had the most success promoting independent reading with the Kindles. They've also been wonderful in highlighting (and commenting on) specific passages for the students to discuss.

    Until I get a full class set of Kindles, however, I'm not sure I can use the Kindles for my ultimate goal -- to use them in all aspects of the English classroom. I like your idea of posting passages to FB and Twitter, but unfortunately, my school blocks those two sites.

    A workaround would be to have all the students set up an account at Amazon (or at Findings), but that seems too clunky. Perhaps an intermediate step is to do lit circles, with each group getting one Kindle.

    Do you have any ideas? I'd love to hear more about what you're doing.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Mark!

    I also had high hopes for the sharing and following components, but they have been slower and less realistic than I hoped. I am focusing more on the Kindle for PC app. Active reading is such an important component for our students, and the app allows them to search their notes and we can project them in class.

    With lit circles, how would they share one Kindle? Is it a read and pass it along? Not sure if that would work. I wish the Kindle had a custom sharing option, where you could share a highlight and/or note to a discussion forum or blog.

    The community/sharing aspect has not, as I said, developed as quickly as I would hope. I am holding that more as a vision and focusing on the individual experience.