Five reasons the Kindle Fire belongs in your classroom
Does the Kindle Fire belong in school classrooms? Here’s five reasons why I think it does:
Free access to public domain books
Do you want to teach Dickens, Dostoevsky, or Shakespeare in your class? You don’t need to buy thirty copies. All of those books are available for free. You can get them directly from Amazon (public domain titles are often unlimited at Amazon), or you can get them from sources like Project Gutenberg. You can also get other types of media (movies, music) from Archive.org. Don’t just tell your students about Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon: let them watch it
Password protected wi-fi
One of the issues with the 3G Kindles for some schools was that they provided unprotected access to the internet, which may have contradicted school policy. The Kindle Fire allows a password to be put on the device to prevent it from connecting to the internet.
You can easily send your notes or a homework assignment to one e-mail address, and have it available to all of the devices on the account (and there is no limit to the number of devices on an account). You can also make notes in situ: since the Kindle Fires are all on your account, those notes will be limited to your students. You do have the option to make them public, and then they can be visible to anyone with a Kindle or a Kindle app. Similarly, you can subscribe to other people’s public notes, and they will appear in place in the book. That might be other teachers, for example.
If a Kindle Fire walks away, you can easily deactivate it and make it so no one can register it again. The Kindle has a serial number in the software. While this won’t prevent theft all together, it should make it less appealing.
I think this is a great aid to comprehension. Your Kindle Fires do not have to access to the internet (once the book is downloaded) to have access to this. It includes character descriptions, a glossary, a summary, and more.
Those are five, but there are others. The availability of the dictionary without internet connection is another plus.
There are some advantages for accessibility, although it has challenges in that arena as well. The text size can be increased, and the color background can be changed. If you are working with text files from Gutenberg, you can also use text-to-speech (I use it just about every workday). However, there are no audible menus, and those with debilitating conditions might have trouble with the weight and manipulating the device.
Overall, though, I can see as being a useful tool in a modern classroom.
I know that I haven’t posted the step by steps in this post, because I wanted to keep it fairly high level, and more on the concepts. I’d be happy to answer questions for you.
What do you think? Is the Kindle Fire something that would work in a classroom? Is there too much risk of damage, theft, and loss? How does it compare to a paperbook or a laptop? Do you have other questions about using a Kindle Fire (or a Reflective Screen Kindle) in a classroom?
Feel free to let me know.
Update: I thought I’d go through this in a more specific way.
I always considered myself very fortunate in high school that I was able to take a science fiction class (from a great teacher, by the way). We even published a magazine, which definitely helped my writing in the future.
So, let’s suppose you decide to teach Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, the 1912 novel that started the series and was the basis for the recent movie. Even though the movie has disappointed at the box office, that doesn’t mean that the book can’t be effectively used with students…in fact, that in and of itself opens topics for discussion.
The first thing you do is get the book. :) You could get it directly from Amazon at the above link. It has unlimited simultaneous device licenses, so even if you have twenty-two students, there is no charge for their copies and yours. However, you might also get it from Project Gutenberg as a text file if you have students that will benefit from the text-to-speech.
You can send the book to each of the Kindles, and you can do that from a central place, the Manage Your Kindle page. You do it one at a time, but it’s just a matter of selecting the devices from a dropdown.
By the way, you can also send it to other devices. You could send it to Kindle for PC installations that are using the accessibility plug-in…again, making text-to-speech available.
Naturally, you read the book. :) Even if I had read it before, I’d go back through it myself.
As you read, you add notes…questions for the students to consider, perhaps, and that could prompt homework assignments. Those notes will appear in all the “copies”.
You check the Book Extras. There are brief character descriptions in this case: that will help students keep Tars Tarkas and Tal Hajus separate.There is a synopsis, but not much else. As a side note, I’ll probably go in there and improve that. :)
You write a document about how the class will be studying the book…what chapters will be expected when, what the discussion topics are, how to get help from you, and so on. You e-mail that to one of the Kindle Fires.
Now, you prep the Kindle Fires for the class. This will take a minute or two per Fire. You download the book, you download your class document. That’s just a matter of tapping each one. You might want to download the trailer for the movie as well, to get them interested. You next password protect the wi-fi, which will keep them from downloading more things to the Fire (like games) during class, or visiting inappropriate sites. It also disables the chat feature within the book: you probably don’t want that for high school students, although I can see it being used in an adult class setting.
The students now have the book, your outline, and your notes. They have a look-up dictionary they can use.
When the class moves on to another book, you essentially repeat the process.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.