District of Columbia Public Schools Pilot Program
Overview of the Pilot Program
This DCPS pilot utilized Kindles in an effort to improve middle school students' motivation to read.
The students involved came from 8th grade English inclusion classrooms at Hart Middle School and from Read 180 classrooms, which included 7th and 8th graders, at Deal Middle School.
The information we share throughout this report will relate most explicitly to the advantages and challenges of using Kindles in these education settings.
We know schools will also be interested in other e-readers and tablet computers.
While some of our experience can be applied generally to the use of e-readers and tablet computers in the classroom, we have also found several resources that will help you consider which device will most align to the needs of your school and students.
Recommended Reading on E-readers:
Getting Ready to Use Kindles in the Classroom
Kindles do, like all technology, require organization and preparation before teachers and students are able to use them. Below are samples of the forms and letters used by the pilot program, which were handed out, signed and filed away before students used the Kindles. The forms may be adapted or modified by future classrooms.
1. Kindle User Guides - General overview of how to use Kindles
2. Sample permission letter for parents and students
3. DCPS Internet usage agreement
4. Classroom policies for Kindle Use
- Why and how we use kindles in the classroom
- Expectations for use & treatment of kindles
- Proper distribution of kindles in classroom: It is important to establish a clear expectation of how students will receive and return their Kindles on days when they are used.
- Consequences of abuse
5. Download request and permission form
6. Beginning Distribution / EOY Collection
- All classroom technologies are distributed at the beginning of the school year and collected at its end - the school collection of Kindles are no exception. Together with the asset manager, ensure the Kindles are clearly marked as property of the school, are counted and inspected for damage, and have a secure location for summertime storage. Review each Kindle's memory and remove whichever titles will not be needed the following school year.
7. Excel Spreadsheets to Maintain Student Information / Passwords
- All Pilot teachers this year maintained information on an excel spreadsheet. On this spreadsheet, each Kindle was given a clear unit number or title that can be tied to the student assigned to it for the year/duration of its use. Whether you manage each Kindle account individually or in groups, you need to be able to connect each Kindle machine to the student who uses it and have a record of that assignment, including Kindle identifier/label and account password.
8. Maintaining Kindles
- In addition to mananging Kindle information in a spreadsheet, it is important to think through the other logistics of Kindles:- Labeling: Clearly label each Kindle with a number or letter or some other key so students know which Kindle is assigned to them and can easily identify it.
- Charging: Create some kind of charging station, either with several power strips or a laptop cart, where you may plug in Kindles regularly to charge. Charge either as needed or on a rotating schedule, whichever proves most manageable to your classroom configuration.
- Daily / Nightly Storage: As Kindles are valuable items, be sure to lock up Kindles after use. Ensure you have adequate secure storage for the Kindles in your classroom for overnight, weekends, and holiday breaks. If this is a nearby storage room or a filing cabinet near your desk makes no difference. Investment in storage now will prevent the likely cost of replacing Kindles later. Create whatever financial record/comparision you need to convince your administration of the need for such space.
- Storage Over breaks: Along with school administration, determine whether students will have the option of taking home the Kindles assigned to them overnight or during weekends and breaks. Be sure to delineate clearly the expectations and responsibilities of such borrowing both for the students and their parents as well as the staff of the school.
9. Setting up Amazon accounts
- Setting up online Amazon accounts is an important part of using the Kindle. Amazon has extensive information on how to do this. However it is important to consider how you would like to set up these accounts.
- User name / passwords
- Email address / free email addresses
10. Setting up Individual versus Group Accounts:
- When you set up your user accounts there are two main ways to do it: individual accounts for each kindle or one comprehensive whole group account. Both types are useful, but it is important to consider what will be more user-friendly and effective in YOUR classroom.
- For whole group, set up one Amazon account (e.g Hart.Kindle1) and then simply register as many devices as you would like to that account. Setting up your account this way allows you to easily download books to your whole class, cut down on cost (buy a book once for up to 10 devices) and see all of your transactions in one place.
- Alternatively, setting up individual accounts for each Kindle allows the students to feel a greater sense of responsibility over their kindle and it allows your to see each students ordering history and keep track of the students’ individual gift cards. It also is helpful to have individual accounts when dealing with Amazon in relation to specific ordering issues.
Introducing Kindles in the Classroom
- Introduce device -- survey kids regarding familiarity with Kindle/eReader
- survey kids’ familiarity with the device, prior usage, their thoughts on how the device might strengthen their reading, etc
- same survey can be given at the end of the year as in informal measure of effectiveness of Kindle use]
- Distribute and review rules/responsibilities of Kindle usage
- Sign Contracts:
- students and parents sign contracts and review consequences of improper use
- outline what is NOT acceptable i.e. downloading, inappropriate material, use of internet other than Kindle store, etc
- review sources for appropriate content, for example, ala.org/yalsa/bfya
- Get to know your Kindle
- introduce features and have kids explore their Kindles
- review user’s guide or teacher created material
- Becoming Familiar with Kindle
- Opportunity for students to teach each other as they grow more comfortable with the features
- Develop Routines: establish classroom routines for distribution/collection
- Will Kindles be used for independent reading, group reading, reading strategy skills practice, etc?
- Prepare hard copies of material whenever possible (device breakdown, loss of Kindle privileges, etc)
- Practice routines for lesson start-up, Kindle use during lesson, completion of lesson.
- Preload content for beginning use
- Use shared content for first lessons
- Establish times for purchasing/downloading material
- Miscellaneous Considerations
- Pre-download content on to every kindle
- Student friendly user guide
- New Students across the year - peer mentoring - how to get started and caught up
Suggestions for Use in the Classroom:
Together as a team, we have found that Kindles are ideally suited for smaller group instruction or individual learning goals. They provide easy access to lots of books and help students stay engaged during SSR.
In addition, they also provide lots of opportunities for differentiation as students are able to read own book by not being targeted.
When choosing texts, it is important to remember to align this to district wide curriculum for any subject. The Kindles have potential to be used in all subjects, not just ELA.
By using the Free Kindle email addresses, it is quick and easy to read short format informational texts on the Kindle.
Planning & Instruction
In order to help teachers be most effective with using Kindles, they should have one for over the summer as they need time to figure out technology, read available texts, find appropriate features etc...
1. Short stories: Many stories are available online and are downloadable via Kindle. However, if you find them on the internet and want to distribute them to the Kindle via email, they often need to be reformatted and converted to rtf. and can then easily be ‘sent’ to all the student Kindles.
- “The Chilean Girls”
- “The Lottery”
- “Louisa Please Come Home”
- “One Small Torch”.
2. Sample readings/questions
- Kindle news
- Animal Farm vocabulary
- Immigration article
- “One Small Torch”, by Sharon Draper - students used this short story (the first chapter of Forged by Fire) to become familiar with their Kindles
- “The Chilean Girls” by Mario Vargas Llosa -- Students participated in a school wide reading ‘celebration’ of Mario Vargas Llosa. They read “The Chilean Girls” on their Kindles, frequently using the dictionary function to understand unfamiliar vocabulary
- “Louisa, Please Come Home” by Shirley Jackson -- provided the full text version of this short story which appears in an abridged form in the READ 180 eBook.
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson -- provided as optional reading in conjunction with a READ 180 unit featuring the writing of Shirley Jackson.
3. Self- Published Books
A word of warning: One major challenge is identifying and weeding out self-published books from Kindle searches. Students may discover titles they think they would like to read which lack the rigor and quality provided by books published by traditional publishing houses. As students begin using the "Kindle permission to purchase a book," faculty has the opportunity to investigate and consider the request, keeping a close eye on the listing found at Amazon.com rather than the Kindle Store interface provided via the Kindle menu. Self published material will be list "Self Published (Date)" under the publisher information in the Product Details.
Faculty may allow students to purchase self-published books; however, they should careful consideration, balancing the quality of the material with the purpose behind the book purchase and the student's particular needs.
4. Successful books from 2010 - 2011
-“145th street” by Walter Dean Meyers
- “100 short stories”
- Eggs by Jerry Spinelli
- Crash by Jerry Spinelli
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- Sharon Flake (The Skin I’m In, Who Am I Without Him?, You Don’t Even Know Me)
- Sharon Draper (Forged By Fire, “One Small Torch”, )
- Rick Riordan (Lightning Thief series),
5. Recommendations/resources for finding appropriate K-12 material
As of this writing, we've noticed a dearth of reading materials for students at middle reader level and below. Until Amazon works with publishers to make more middle level, hi-lo books available in Kindle format, users will have to hunt down appropriate titles outside what you might find on traditional middle and high school reading lists.
6. Periodicals & Newspapers
The Kindle, with access to numerous magazines and newspapers, can provide students with regular access to periodicals and newspapers. This exposure to current events can directly benefit all students. Moving forward, we hope to see Amazon release more “kid-friendly” news publications. Currently, most periodicals and newspapers are targeted at the adult reader.
7. Online resources for suggested reading, with focus on materials for reluctant/remedial readers
Building on comments above, titles discovered from these sources may not yet be available in Kindle format. Request they be made available and keep looking for alternatives.
Great for Students with Special Needs
The Kindle provides numerous learning opportunities for students with special needs.
- Visual Formatting: For students with visual impairments, the Kindle allows students select the appropriate size text to meet their needs. Simply by pushing a button, students can increase or decrease font size. This feature has increased the engagement for many of our students who have difficultly seeing normal font size.
- In addition, the Kindle content can be downloaded to the computer. This feature allows for even larger text and the ability to change the color / format. The Kindle PC option provides countless opportunities for students who require more specific text features.
- Text to Speech: For students who require read aloud, the kindle is able to read any Kindle text out loud. By plugging in headphones, students can listen to books and short stories. This feature can help increase reading engagement for struggling readers and also to provide more independence to these students.
- Convenience: For students whom have difficulty flipping pages or holding open books, the Kindle provides a convenient alternative. By pushing a button, students are able to flip through pages and chapters. Additionally, for students with more severe physical disabilities, there may be some potential of connecting a switch to the Kindle.
- Organization: For students with organization troubles, the Kindle helps them out by saving the page they read.
- Dictionary feature: The Kindle provides immediate assistance for unknown vocabulary words. By using the dictionary, which is embedded within the text, students can access texts that are at challenging reading level.
Assessment -- Assessing the Success of Kindles in the Classroom
In order to prove the effectiveness of Kindles, it is important to frequently use them in instruction and also assess students. Although it is difficult to isolate the Kindle as the contributing factor, we have a few ideas of assessment:
- Pre -Survey & post survey
- DC BAS - baseline - DC CAS – growth
- Recommendations for informal assessment - observation etc.
- Vocabulary assessment - are kids using dictionary function to help figure out word meanings in context?
- Pre test/post test of meaning of challenging vocabulary
- Finding main idea/supporting details in informational text
- Using highlighting function to identify main idea and supporting details
- Level of engagement/participation in reading
- Using % completed component as a gauge of material read
- Helping kids determine how to set reasonable daily reading goals
- Including comprehension questions in text materials sent to Kindles
- Questions can serve as an assessment of understanding and/or facilitate discussion in small groups
Challenges with Kindles in the Classroom
- Availability of texts
- Constraints of teaching standards against time
- Power/battery life across a traditional school day
- Technical issues
-won’t turn on
-where is the content
-where in the content
- Access to inappropriate material - no control
- Difficulty finding time and purpose during test season
- Words of caution re: wifi access
- Amazon - developments needed
- Store location just for user so limits access to outside content
- School portal or middle school portal on Amazon
- Differentiate between personal an educational purposes
- Send kindles home is not realistic in urban setting
- What are reasonable expectation - maybe through one to one solution
- Text to speech function is not fluid and is not necessarily a good model for students - perhaps audio books
- See it more as a tool to help teacher with instruction and less as an engagement element;
- Once novelty wears off - it looses its power to improve engagement
- Interactive place to journal and work on IGP
- Connect to book reviews and quizzes
- Management of tool is important to facilitating students to see self as reader
- After school programs: Book Clubs
- Use of tools (notes, dictionary - i.e. habits that can move beyond Kindle)
- Engagement / grades
- Digital textbooks: lack of color is prohibitive
- Digital eReader versus instructional tool
- Other eReader devices