More thoughts on e-Books

This week I have done a lot of thinking about eBooks, have talked to a few people on Twitter and enjoyed a really good discussion on the subject at EdTechRoundup.

Lots of things were said about the pros and cons of various device;

  • Doug Belshaw [I think] said that when £20 phones from ASDA are stable platforms for eBooks then they are truly ready to be embedded.
  • Tony Sheppard wondered why a single-use device like an eBook reader would be preferable to a multi-function device.
  • Several people have mentioned that various new eBook readers are due out early next year, which should cause prices to drop significantly.

And a long discussion about the pros and cons of using electronic textbooks was very interesting (blog posts by Donald Clark and John McMillen were pointed out to me, and the comments in Donald’s post in particular made for very worthwhile reading).

But having gotten a bit confuddled and started waffling, Nick Dennis gave me perhaps the most sound advice of the evening: “I think the principle we need to think about is what are you trying to achieve? Then ask will the PDAs help?”

I had certainly taken the initial idea and thought “What can I do with this”, rather than the other way around. Tail wagging the dog would be the apporpriate phrase I think.

And what I want to do is to get students reading. Simple as that. How? Buy 2-4 devices, select students from my form group,  load the devices up with free books and stories for a start. Possibly show students how to take online text and package it up in a format suitable for reading and definitely discuss acceptable use (e.g. must bring it on certain days, must look after it, no porn, not to be used in other lessons [as per school policy]).

I would need to decide on a policy regarding installing additional applications, clear the project with SMT (am reasonably hopeful on that one), decide who gets the devices (Reluctant readers? Control group? Random selection?) and also decide on some method of measuring the success of the project.

So lots still to think about, but I feel like I’m making progress – at least in my own mind.

Encouraging literacy


We’ve discovered an interesting trend at school. Although results have consistently gone up and the students are generally good at written work, they’re not as strong when it comes to reading – particularly whn required to analyse what I would consider to be fairly basic chunks of writing. I could rant about spoon-feeding, league tables, a culture that is afraid to allow students to fail and so on (and, to be honest, I have. At lenght. And frequently) but instead I’m looking at methods to improve the situation.

Required Reading

It’s long been a school rule that tutors get their form group to read, silently, for 15 minutes in morning registration once a week. In practice, I know that in some groups this works well, and in others it really doesn’t. My Y11 form seem particularly resistant, with even the bright and usually willing pupils complaining that they would prefer to read in their own time.

Audio Short Stories

A solution to this that is in the pipeline is to take short audiobooks (e.g. Roald Dahl’s ‘The Landlady), give the students a printed copy of the text, play the story through and set some simple multiple-choice questions as a group quiz or competition. I quite like this idea, although I can see it getting old quite quickly if over-used.


Now this is the main point of the post. Back in June I attended the Achievement Show, and saw a presentation by Rising Stars relating to the use of eBooks in school (KS2 & 3). There are a couple of ideas including reading books on mobile devices (becauase they are inherently more appealing than reading from paper supposedly, although that’s a whole issue in itself), students turning their own stories into eBooks (a fairly simple process) and potentially even using the device itself to perform some task – writing a review, annotating or highlighting parts of the story, using a built in dictionary to explain the words, all sorts of things.

I’m quite keen to have a deeper look at the practicalities and benefits of such a scheme and have put together a small mind-map outlining my thoughts.

Without wanting to repeat myself too much, I need to consider the pros and cons of various devices. I already use a smartphone for reading books, and SUMSonline are offering a good deal on refurbished Dell Axims with their maths software already onboard – but the screens are going to be quite small.

Sony eBook readers are lovely devices, but are pretty bulky, expensive and can;t do anything else (this is could be a good and a bad thing depending on your point of view).

The DS and PSP option is similar to PDAs, but with more opportunities for blurring the lines between entertainment and education (see comment in parentheses, above).

We have a class set of Asus EeePCs (7″, 4GB versions) which may be rendered obsolete in the next upgrade cycle. Again with the plethora of distractions and the bulkiness, but they are already networked and have a keyboard for performing some of the comprehension/reviewing/discussing type tasks.

So. Lots to think about.

Any ideas?