E-Readers Coming to a School Near You?

November 13, 2009 1 min read

Fordham University researchers Michael Miles and Bruce Cooper have an interesting commentary on this week about the emerging market for electronic readers like the Kindle and similar devices from Sony and Barnes & Noble, and their potential to transform the textbook-driven classroom.

The writers include some arguments for using e-readers as a staple of instruction, while also outlining issues teachers and administrators should consider before making the leap.

They write:

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.

There are likely challenges ahead, though. Getting enough of the devices in schools is a costly endeavor, and issues over licensing of content could complicate the availability of curricula on the devices. (I’m sure this conversation could apply to a range of other tech tools as well). And this article from the Associated Press highlights the concerns of some educators who’ve rejected the Kindle because of flaws in its voice-reading feature, which makes them essentially inaccessible to blind students.

The authors of the commentary make some good points, and, in the end conclude that “portable electronic readers deserve serious consideration by boards of education and school leaders.”

Check it out and let me know what you think.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.