One of the most active Kindle implementations that I know of in a school is taking place in Seneca IL under the supportive leadership of Kathy Parker and her “Kindle Crew.” Kathy’s unabashed enthusiasm for kids and reading has found another object in the Kindle. In addition to her enthusiasm, Kathy has been incredibly willing to take the time to share her experience and that of her colleagues and their students as they begin their Kindle journey. Her blog posts at the Ning make for interesting reading for anyone who wants to see the Kindle through the eyes of a middle schooler.
I want to share some of the information here because I think it is incredibly valuable for those of us who see a future for ereaders in education. I have long felt that font size and clarity play an important role for many students in becoming proficient readers. Over a year ago, I wrote about this and my thoughts at the time were these:
Research that I have seen over the years suggests that font size also plays a part in students’ ability to access text. We certainly see larger text supplied for very young eyes in picture books and early readers. What we don’t know about how the size of print affects older students’ reading is astounding. That is another reason to investigate the Kindle for educational purposes.
The first student reports bear this out:
We are 7th grade students at Seneca Grade School and enjoy using Kindles in our RTI class. One reason we like Kindles better than using a book because we can change the font size. We like the largest font because it makes us read faster.
There is so much concern today about the fact that most eighth-graders in this country do not read at a proficient level. In response to this concern, there are a ton of reading remediation programs to address this need, and many different theories about its cause. I guess I think that being able to see the text clearly is a pretty good starting place. The Seneca students are clear about their preference in font size, given a choice:
The font that everyone prefers to use with the Kindle 2 is the largest font size.
Um, that’s a 20 point font, far larger than what they encounter in their textbooks. So, a summary of this admittedly informal bit of research is that 1) kids naturally select the largest font available because 2) it makes them read faster. Hmmm, pretty encouraging stuff for literacy directors to consider as they plan for ways to get their struggling and resistant readers reading again.
I love the students’ comment that “when you go to the next page, the “flash” on the screen, doesn’t bother our eyes.” Take that, Nicholson Baker and your ilk! The ominous, untoward flash that has led many reviewers to recoil in indignation quite simply “doesn’t bother” their eyes.
The kids even comment on what is really the game-changer embedded in the Kindle: books come to you and follow you around:
…another feature is we like the fact we don’t have to carry around alot of books because the Kindle has a variety of titles downloaded onto it.
In Len Edgerly’s interview with him, the headmaster of Cushing Academy said something to the effect that being able to have in his bag a device that holds the greatest literature of western civilization is “thrilling” to him. Yes, that’s the scholar’s view of the Kindle! It is also something that matters a great deal to young readers–access to material that they want to read. Lee Ann Spillane in Orlando has noted that her high school students liked it best when she had books like Twilight loaded onto the Kindle. It provides tons of reading in a very portable package.
Finally, these kids have conquered the gnarly problem of position versus page number on the Kindle. Because their Kindles are shared, synching to the furthest page read can be a disaster! I mean, whose furthest page are we talking about? So the Seneca students and their teachers have a simple fix:
We keep our place/location using the Kindle 2 by writing it down the location number. This way when we use the Kindle 2 we can search by location number.
There you have it, the secrets to Kindle success from the inventive students of Seneca IL: grab a Kindle, load it up with a lot of good books, crank the font, and jot down your location number. Pretty simple, and pretty effective! Thanks Alex M., Alex H., Ashley, Thomas, and Kale (and all the others who helped) for helping us grown-ups see the road ahead.