Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Take your paper back: Kindle, Nook, Intel E-reader

4th and 5th graders got the lower lockers at my elementary school. Grades 6-8 got the higher level of lockers. That means that, to torture the younger students, they would frequently “accidentally” drop their bags on your head while trying to put their 30 pound backpacks filled with textbooks for every subject into their lockers.

Fortunately for small, sweet children everywhere, the textbook will soon go out of style as a torture device. And no one is about to drop their $300 e-reader on your head.

The Kindle is moving its way into the education world. The Kindle clearly has many great attributes: you can have all your textbooks, as well as thousands of other books in one location, and you can comment and annotate all over them.

The Nook one-upped the Kindle by having wi-fi access, and with the ability to share books with friends for up to two-weeks, smartphones or computers. The Nook will also be able to get books from the Google Books Project. (Barnes & Noble Unveils Kindle-Killing, Dual-Screen ‘Nook’ E-Reader, Wired.com). I think a great step forward with an education e-reader would be that the e-reader allows users to share notes and passages with fellow classmates. If sharing is not allowed universally, then perhaps a class group could be formed to allow for this type of limited but beneficial sharing.

One wonderful invention is aimed to assist the estimated 55 million people in the U.S. who have dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities, or have vision problems such as low-vision or blindness, which makes reading printed words difficult or impossible. The Intel E-reader turns written text into spoken words and can convert either text files or pages photographed with the built-in camera (Intel e-reader combines Atom processor and accessibility, ZDNet) into text or spoken words. This device provides for the capabilities the others do not have: capturing the book as an image, text, or audio file and being able to copy and paste and share any part of those files.

Cushing Academy, a boarding school, has taken a great leap by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on renovating its library. The school is getting rid of the actual, physical books in favor of going digital. The library removed the stacks and added couches, to create a physical space for the digital environment. They explained they were meeting the students where they go to research (online). The library traded in its 20,000-volume collection for a database of millions of digital books. All students can read any of the books, either through the 68 Amazon Kindles around campus or on the laptop that each of the school's 450 students is provided (Digital School Library Leaves Book Stacks Behind, NPR) . But this has raised some concerns and complaints. The students don’t love their kindles, many say annotating is slow and annoying. A complaint from the President of the American Library Association said "Students learn differently, and some students will take to digital resources and information technology like a duck takes to water," Alire says. "And then there are other students who learn by turning the pages, by handling the materials." Creating easy ways of transferring the materials between physical and digital may be useful to deal with this issue, however, more likely the expense saved and possibilities opened up by creating digital libraries and resources for students will force students to have to adapt to the new paperlessback book.

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