For today’s students who are acclimated to high speed browsing, the experimental Kindle browser will seem impossibly awkward and slow. Longer web pages are displayed and accessed using the “next page” button, and sites with sidebars or any kind of fancy formatting will display in a seemingly helter skelter way on the Kindle browser. (It is somewhat amazing but only fair to note that the current situation is quite a bit better than it used to be!) And I have heard good things about the move to a better browser platform with the 3rd generation Kindle, but we will have to wait to see.
But what the Kindle can do with the internet is not really limited to the browser. Consumers know that they can order and download books in the much vaunted “60 seconds” without ever going to the “Experimental” link in the menu screen and launching the browser. So, how will internet connectivity (if not the browser itself) on the Kindle assist you, the teacher, in the classroom?
One, students will not be tempted to use the Kindle as an entertainment or social networking device during class. Too darned slow. (With all the talk about colleges banning certain internet-connected devices during lectures because professors don’t want to look out at a sea of students updating their Facebook status, the slow-moving Kindle might be the right kind of connected device for the classroom.)
Two, with built-in searches on Google and Wikipedia, information can be accessed more quickly than it could if you had to open the browser and find it yourself. How to do this? Use the 5-way to highlight something you want to look up and hit the space bar (super secret short cut!), which will populate the search box at the bottom of the page with the term you want to search on. With the 5-way move three spots to the right (past the “find” command, which will just look up other places in the text where the term is used, to the little pointer to the right. Three nudges of the 5-way to the right will do it. That will open a menu with choices like “store” (what else with Amazon!), “google,” “wikipedia,” “dictionary,” and “note,” in case you want to add a note about the highlighted word(s). Highlight “wikipedia” and push the 5-way. Voila! A wikipedia page listing all the Wikipedia pages about that term appears. Navigate to the one you want with the 5-way and push. Count to ten (slowly), and here comes your article!
Three, the internet connection will also allow you to click on live links in the text and fly (er, amble) to the linked URL. Say that you have downloaded a book or article like this one on Differentiated Instruction, and you wanted to visit this cool link about the “Dimensions of Differentiated Learning” that is referenced in the work, you just use the 5-way to get to and click on the link and the browser will launch itself and take you there.
Four, and finally, the live internet connection will allow you to post highlighted passages to Twitter or Facebook. With synchronization turned off, this offers a good way for students to post highlights and notes directly to the web where you and classmates can view them for comment or discussion. More on how to do this in an upcoming post!