Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Converge > E-readers, E-books Represent Future For [Houston[ Community College [Southwest]

Converge Magazine / January 20 2011 / Tanya Roscorla

After piloting e-readers and e-books in the classroom, Houston Community College Southwest decided the digital tools were ready for prime time this semester. And in the future, they're the way to go for this campus.

"Faculty want these devices, students are intrigued by them and are using them, and generally the response is positive to the device," said Doug Rowlett, instructional design coordinator for the Southwest campus.

With the Chancellor's Innovation Grant, Rowlett placed more than 200 e-readers in students' hands. Between fall 2009 and 2010, faculty members and about 350 students tested the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad and enTourage eDGe. They also tested e-books to see how they would work in the classroom.


Faculty Members In Different Subject Areas Prefer Different e-Readers

In the humanities, faculty said the Kindle worked the best. In the sciences, iPads fit the bill. And in developmental classes, faculty preferred the eDGe.

Rowlett thought the English teachers would be all over the iPad, but they actually preferred the Kindle. In their classes, students primarily read books, and with the iPads, they didn't stay on task. [snip].

But science demands full color, interactivity and video to bring images and concepts to life. And that's where the iPad shines.

In developmental classes, instructors like the eDGe because it allows English language learners to improve their speaking by listening to audio files.They also use a stylus to take notes on the touchscreen, write a journal, watch movies, surf the web and read on the e-ink reading screen.


"None of the devices are perfect, but they all work well at what they’ve been designed to do. And so we’re finding that this is going to be the future as far as we’re concerned.”

E-books, e-Readers Represent The Future

But that future won't be device specific.

Rowlett submit[ted] a list of the devices that the college has tested and proven to work well in the classroom to the board. Then he'll leave it up to instructors to decide which devices they want students to use. As new devices come out, the college will test them and add them to the list if they work well.


Students Score Higher With e-Books, e-Readers

In the biology classes, students take standard entrance and exit exams, and the college compared classes that scored the same on the entrance exams. In the class with e-books and e-readers, students scored 15 to 17 points better than students in the traditional textbook class. And that's significant because those numbers could represent the difference between a C and B or a B and A.


E-readers Hold Up Over Time

During the study, the college also wanted to see whether the devices were robust enough to withstand use in the classroom. Out of the 200 devices, only five were damaged enough to be replaced, and that damage mostly came from being dropped. [snip].

E-books Save Students Money

One of the hurdles the college will have to overcome is getting financial aid to pay for the cost of the devices. This semester, faculty members signed up on waiting lists to check out sets of devices. [snip].

Rowlett encourages faculty members to use e-books and content freely available in the public domain as much as possible because of the traditional textbook prices. [snip].


If students bought a device the first semester, and their e-books cost 50 percent or less than the paper version, they would break even the first semester. The second semester, they would start saving money, and that's what students are excited about.

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