Sunday, December 19, 2010

Our Nook Adventure Part III

The Good:
First off, I want to say that the vast majority of what we've experienced with our eReaders has been good.  Great even.  We've yet to have to return a unit or even call for technical support. While our students are, indeed, being careful, the Nooks themselves seem to be hearty little devices capable of withstanding frequent, prolonged use. The battery life has been more than adequate and the screens are easy to read - both inside and out. (Yes, I tested this!)

But what's been *really* exciting is the ways in which our students have been able to interact with texts.
Providing students with the opportunity to choose their own books to read empowers and encourages them.  It strengthens their self confidence, rewards their interests, and promotes a positive attitude toward reading by valuing the reader and giving him or her a level of control.  Readers without power to make their own choices are unmotivated.- Donalyn Miller in The Book Whisperer: Awakening The Inner Reader in Every Child

Picture stolen shamelessly from Christy James
As we've discovered, eReaders are the perfect vehicle for independent reading initiatives.  Currently, a 7th grade class at our school is using the Nooks for a unit on "choices."  In this instance, the teacher provided the students with a list of titles that fit the theme and students were able to select the titles that most appealed to them - once assigned a Nook, students found that it was customized just for them - containing all the titles that they requested. (Incidentally, the Nook does allow you to "archive" titles that are not in use through your B&N account.  Theoretically, you could "hide" titles that were purchased for use in other classes so that students only saw the content you wanted them to.)

I love this use of the Nooks because, let's face it, whatever excitement students may feel as a result of the gadget itself is bound to wear off quickly.  Without the element of self-selection, once the cool factor is gone, students are left with nothing more than just a book that someone else is forcing them to read -- and we all know how motivating that is. This student-propelled learning continues as they discover how easy it is for them to annotate texts, access related online materials and build their own document library of related resources.  In all my years in public education, I'm not sure I've ever witnessed a more authentic reading experience. What's more, it would have been next to impossible using traditional pen and ink books.

The Bad:
Honestly, the worst part about this experience has been that school purchasing/finance policies are still playing catch-up with the technology.  Like most districts, we are not allowed to purchase gift cards with state funds which leaves us with one option:  using our school credit card to make eBook purchases  - which is fine, except that we have to remove all credit card information from the Nook accounts after each purchase (which isn't a huge obstacle, just time consuming).  Another monkey wrench has been that our school system limits the number of credit card purchases that can be made in a month, which can be sticky because B&N bills each individual eBook as a separate transaction - this is something I learned the hard way.

In the end, most of these things are just minor irritants when compared to the learning that is taking place.  Further, if I were a betting girl, I'd put my money on the chances of school systems all around the country adjusting their policies to account for these new devices. That said, truly, I'm not complaining.  We're making it work. What's more, I believe these processes will continue to become more efficient as time goes on. (However, if others have already found a more efficient way to purchase eBooks for school system devices, I'm eager to hear about them!)

The Unknown:
Currently, we're among those districts whose interpretation of CIPA prevents us from sending our Nooks home.  (See Buffy Hamilton's post on CIPA and Kindles in the Unquiet Library).  Again, I think we'll see the day when CIPA and other laws are amended to address mobile devices of all stripes - (who knows, there may even be a whole new acronym for us to contend with).  In the meantime, however, the question stands:  how do we incorporate new publishing and/or mobile, hand-held devices into our library programs while still adhering to laws aimed to protect students accessing the internet at school? I don't know the answer.  And I'm not the only one.

Other questions I have relate to the devices themselves and their continued evolution. As eReaders become the gadget du jour, it will be interesting to see if/how the publishing world reacts.  Even though we only have the traditional black/white Nooks at our school, the new color version offers some pretty interesting/exciting features including interactive texts (currently only available in children's titles), far more extensive magazine/periodical subscriptions, as well as the inclusion of 3rd party apps.  For the moment, the color Nook offers only a smattering of these apps, but a Nook App Marketplace is in the works, which opens these devices up to all sorts of possibilities.

These developments leave me both excited and wary.

While I'm most definitely a "gadget girl," at the end of the day, I'm really more of a "right gadget for the right learning goals girl" -- even though that's not nearly as catchy.  For now, the Nook is proving to be the right gadget for the reading goals we've established for our students.  I'm anxious to see if the evolution of the eReader will translate to an even greater impact on student learning.

Next up:
Student/teacher reactions to the Nooks.  Or, I finally hush up and let some other people talk. :)
Stay tuned!

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