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Textbooks Go Kindle, Grades Increase

Textbooks Go Kindle, Grades Increase

When the school term started in August 2010, Clearwater High School in Clearwater, Florida USA, embarked on a new approach to that old scholastic standby known as the textbook.

You remember textbooks? They were those big, clunky, printed things you had to lug around from class to class 5 or 6 times each day, and you weren’t supposed to write on, or otherwise mess, with them. Then, when the day was done, you either had to store the books in a locker and hope no one broke in and stole them. Or, perhaps, you took one or more of those books home with you if you had to do some homework.

But the new approach that Clearwater High took was one that was never tried before, at least not on-campus, and that was giving each student an e-reader; specifically, a Kindle. This “Kindle-ization” at Clearwater High not only made it easier on the students as far as carrying books around, but it also made it easier on the school itself because of the savings in costs versus buying hard-copy textbooks.

And more than halfway through the term, while these $177-valued Kindles have their own technical issues, not to mention that the concept is so new that textbook publishers haven’t yet caught up with it [only 1/4 of texts used at Clearwater High, mostly in math and English classes, are on Kindle], school officials have seen increases in students’ grades where Kindles are being used, leading to what the principal of Clearwater High, Mr. Keith Mastroides, describes as a “higher level of thinking” in the classroom. In one instance where a Social Studies class at that school still uses hard-copy textbooks, Kindles work just as effectively to supplement the printed material because of its Internet connection.

Bennie Niles, 17, shows off a Kindle reading device, Clearwater High School

The idea of e-readers replacing hard-copy textbooks comes on the heels of the “virtual school” idea, created at both the public and private levels in a few places, in which entire classes are taught online instead of in a brick-and-mortar classroom, particularly when it’s not practical to teach the old-fashioned way, to say nothing of other learning technologies, both online and even on DVD’s.

More and more schools, over time, are going to latch on to the idea of giving students Kindles, or other e-readers, instead of hard-copy textbooks, but for those who don’t, are their students going to feel left behind?

While the percentage of 16-to-24 year-olds in the US without a high school diploma or equivalent has declined between 2000 and 2006, a 2010 study revealed that, based on figures from 2007—the latest available—more than 3 out of every 10 students failed to graduate without a diploma. Even President Obama brought home a similar point during a recent speech he gave to students at a middle school in Virginia.

I, for one, would want to ask if those graduation rates are because there’s a digital divide where many of today’s high school students get an education that may seem too old-fashioned, too…uh, low-tech in a high-tech world? Granted, it may not be the only reason; there have been known to be other factors, like impoverished neighborhoods and single-parent homes, but those are topics for other forums.  Technological advances that would help improve learning and keep students interested in education may not be the only solution, and it may end up being debatable whether such advances would be any replacement for human teachers.

But when a high school gets to try out e-Readers on their students, who then pick up on them to read and learn more easily, it may yet prove to be but one more step in schools’ efforts to keep up with 21st century technology.

About the Author

Steve Byrd Steve has worked in everything from restaurants to radio sports production, and gives a perspective that's slightly above that of the average person about how the Internet has been an entertainment game-changer. You can regularly find Steve chiming in on a variety of online music-radio shows, as he often sits in the chat room as “information guru” during webcasts.

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