Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reimagining The Textbook: The Risks And Rewards Of Electronic Reading Devices

Education Week / Vol. 29 / Issue 11 / Pages 24-25 / Published Online: November 9, 2009 ; Published in Print: November 11, 2009

By Michael L. Miles & Bruce S. Cooper

The word “kindle” usually refers to fire, using “kindling,” or small pieces of wood, to build a flame. But in today’s high-tech marketplace, an electronic reading device called Kindle, marketed by the online bookseller, has started another kind of fire, igniting competitive forces in a movement to deliver books and other written materials in fast, inexpensive ways that fit more easily into the computer age.

Though Kindle is the best-known of these electronic readers, Sony and other companies have developed their own devices, and the bookseller Barnes & Noble plans to offer its version, the Nook, on Nov. 30. All may soon be vying for the favor of one extremely active book-buyer: America’s public schools.

The devices are small, portable, and relatively inexpensive. They are softly readable, with little of the glare often associated with computer screens. And material can be downloaded in seconds from a potential listing of millions of books, for little cost per tome. [snip]. And the devices will continue to improve.

Traditional paper and hardcover books may go the way of the abacus, chalkboards, and ink pens—replaced by a small, plastic gadget that offers immediate access to unlimited potential learning resources.The stage is set for a radical change in education: going electronic to replace the dozens of textbooks students use in school. The availability of these portable readers, as well as the use by some schools of easily assembled and updated digitally based hard-copy readings for students, gives us a glimpse of the classroom of the future.

The potential benefits of using the Kindle or similar devices in teaching and learning are substantial. But these should be weighed alongside the risks and limitations of the technology before we envision a universal “e-book” for every class, program, and activity of the nation’s 56 million schoolchildren.




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