Horizon Report Tech Trend

Yesterday I was thrilled to discover that the ACCESS program I volunteer for is receiving a Kindle for their students. This is excellent news! They will be pre-loaded with U.S. based news, literature, and English-language instruction materials.  I’ve been asked to help train the students and teachers on how to effectively use this device. I was elated to volunteer my services and think the Kindle will be a wonderful tool for these students, most of whom have never owned a book of their own.

The funny thing is: I don’t own a Kindle. In fact, I’ve never even looked at one. I’m an iPad devotee, so I use it as an ebook reader. Now I have added incentive to purchase a Kindle, or at least become familiar with one. I have a hunch it won’t take me long to figure it out.

I’ve developed a lesson plan that will help me introduce this device to these students and their teachers. I’m not sure how to share a small handful of Kindles among a large class of students, but we’ll figure it out. One or two is better than none. These students come from underprivileged backgrounds and most have not used individual devices at all. The Kindle will open up a lot of doors for them, even if they can only use them while in class.

Since they are studying English, they will appreciate being able to look up definitions of words become familiar with American literature and newspapers.

In our EdTech 501 assignment forum this week, I made the following notes about ebook readers in general. I thought it would be useful to repost here:

1. E-books are significant in many ways and are becoming more widespread than ever. In 2010, they appeared on the mid-term horizon, but this year they were promoted to the One Year or Less horizon. This is in large part due, according to the Horizon Report 2011, to “the ready availability of both reading devices and digital content” that makes it “very easy to integrate electronic books into everyday portable computing” (HR 2011, pg. 8). In short, more people have devices that do more, thus making e-books more feasible and practical to incorporate into daily digital life. Tablets such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy have blended the ability to browse the Web with electronic books, thus creating a “new class of tools” (HR 2011, pg. 8).

The Horizon Report 2011 points out that “the most interesting aspect of electronic books, however, is not the devices they are accessed with; it is not even the texts themselves. What makes electronic books a potentially transformative technology is the new kinds of reading experiences that they make possible. (HR 2011, pg. 8)” I found this so interesting, and it caused me to reflect on reading in general and how I interact with books. It also caused me to look at how my own children learn (by engaging with the material) and it is no surprise that electronic books can really make a difference in teaching and learning. They create a new world of possibility for everyone involved: students, teachers, and publishers. The sky is the limit with what can be accomplished. Reading is no longer a solitary, words-in-print experience. It can be a social, engaging, collaborative, and tactile adventure.

2. Electronic books are directly relevant to both teaching and learning. E-books are extremely practical. They are compact, lightweight, cost-efficient, don’t age or wear, and are continually current. Even still, in order to be fully integrated in the classroom, there are real challenges, especially in education. Scholarly texts, including textbooks, must be more readily available. The Horizon Report 2011 adds that digital rights management (DRM) issues and constraints need to be sorted out, and that e-books need to be made available on all platforms. (HR 2011, pg. 9)

Steven Johnson paints a fascinating picture in the New York Times about how reading has become, for better or worse, a social activity (NYT 18 June 2010). He uses the example of “popular highlights” found on e-reader devices that keep track of what others have highlighted and then highlight the same passage on your e-book as well. He says soon we’ll be able to message, see, and interact with those other readers too. This type of collaborative reading experience may not appeal to all readers, especially since reading is often about escaping in solitude. However, this approach in a classroom setting may just what students need to engage and interact with each other. Many kids who have been less inclined to enjoy reading, may find it a more stimulating activity.

I think it is an exciting direction, and it will be fun to see how electronic books evolve during the next few years.

References:

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Steven Johnson, The New York Times, 18 June 2010

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