Today in my LL ED – 480 class, we talked about the rise of e-readers in the classroom. It was the first time that I really consider the use of such technology. It seems like all the random pieces of technological advancement are bound to converge in my classroom. Therefore it would be wise for me and all teachers to consider the use of and the pros and cons of e-readers in the classroom.
First, the cons. Perhaps the largest drawback to e-readers would be the damage that digital screens can do to eyes. In the past year or so, my vision has been slowly fading, and I blame the amount of time I spend in front of the computer. For students who are using more technology and watching the television and computer screen more, adding another digital screen for them to blast their vision with does not seem helpful. Furthermore, e-readers do not come cheap. The least expensive e-reader is $150, which may not sound like much for a school district, but to provide these pieces of technology for an entire school or school district would be costly. Finding and setting aside money for e-readers within a school districts budget would be very difficult. Indeed, many parents and administrators will not place e-readers high on a list of priorities for school fund usage. A final drawback to e-readers in the classroom is their delicacy. Books can be dropped many times from great heights and only get a little dirty. E-readers can be broken from a single unlucky accident. The lacking durability of e-readers makes the $150 spent on them more perishable than using the same money on a textbook.
Okay enough e-reader bashing. Here are a few reasons why e-readers would be beneficial for schools. The biggest reason that e-readers would be loved in schools is the backpack issue. Students, particularly elementary school students, are dealing with increasing backpack weights, and this is causing health problems. When I first heard about this issue, I honestly thought it was a joke. I walked to and from school with my backpack all the time and I turned out just fine(ish). But this problem is real. For the little ladies in my block class or anyone who is interested, you can calculate your ideal backpack weight here. The point is that this problem is real. If e-readers can calm the worried minds of parents across the nation and save the wearied backs of students, why not invest in them? Also, using technology in combination with reading has the possibility of creating new interest in reading for students fascinated by technology. Finally, the students will have responsibility of the safety of e-readers just as they are responsible for their textbooks. The increase in cost and penalty for the loss or damage of an e-reader should serve as ample motivation for them to take care of the fragile piece of technology.
So what’s the right answer? Stick with ye olde textbook or embrace another part of the wave of technology in schools? As with most things the right path is probably one of moderation. The use of the e-reader in the classroom needs to be applied with a careful balance between financial concerns, actual reading test score impact, and classroom utility. If and when the e-reader can be shown to have concrete benefits in classes, it will begin to have a greater presence in the classroom, and I may even come around to using them a bit in class.