I have been using Kindles in the classroom for the past 4 weeks. Why? Because my new school had some that they hadn't yet managed to encourage anyone to use. Me? I'm always up for a challenge so decided I would find something we could do with them.
The first thing I decided to do was google what had already been done and found some great stuff on the Bradford Schools Local Authority blog by James Langley and also on High Dive Teaching by Sally Thorne
I set up a reading questionnaire based on James' (with his permission) and surveyed the children in my class about their reading habits. From this, it highlighted that most of them do enjoy reading as long as it's something they're interested in. Some of them said they thought they would read more if they used technology (they didn't know about the kindles at this point).
Since then I've been using the kindles with two groups during my guided reading sessions. After the initial lesson where the children had to work out how to use them (most of them understand them now; just one or two that keep pressing buttons when they shouldn't) they have been very successful. The children automatically go for the dictionary if there's a word they don't understand (one minor problem is the dictionary can be a bit wordy for lower ability children to understand) and my higher group have been collecting words by highlighting and saving into the clippings so they can use the kindles when they are writing too.
In the case of guided reading, the Kindles don't really provide a new way of teaching; just a different format to read in. There are some plus points to the kindles though; we have been able to access a huge selection of free classic books which the school doesn't own - my higher ability group are currently enjoying Heidi. Also, it can reduce costs spent on books (after the initial outlay for the kindles) as most ebooks can be shared on 6 devices according to Amazon's T&C's whilst only paying for one copy. That's just perfect for a group in guided reading! The lower ability like the function of changing the text size so they can read at a size they are comfortable and the anti-glare screen is brilliant in a classroom where you have to have the lights on most of the time.
Aside from using the kindles in guided reading, I decided I wanted to do a bit more with them. Hence, I started a project with my media group to write our own kindle ebooks. Having looked up the process of writing ebooks (and complicated it does seem!) we settled on developing a PDF book as these are very simple to create and allowed me to spread my love of Google Docs just a little bit more :-)
Over the past few weeks the children have surveyed, planned, written and illustrated books using Google Docs and Drawings. The reason I chose this format was that a) we have Google Apps for Edu set up for every child; b) it allows the children to collaborate easily and c) it is easy to download your document as a PDF and save it to the kindle. So that's what we've been doing.
The children have worked fantastically on their books as I have sat with eight or nine tabs open simultaneously commenting on children's work; marking it live as they are writing so they can live edit. They've sat with the comments window open sharing ideas and asking each other questions. They have experimented with text size and font by making test files. And we now have nearly finished real books that we can put on the kindles and share but also that I can put on our school blog for them to download and read at home which the children are very excited about.
Here is my presentation for Teachmeet Nottingham, 18th May:
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