By Janna Dougherty
E-readers give students access to a wide variety of resources like digital annotation, connection to the Internet and audio reading, all of which can spur deep reading and comprehension of individual vocabulary words and the text as a whole. But the benefits of e-readers in the classroom don’t stop there. E-readers also provide:
- More opportunities for direct engagement
- A whole library if books
- An inexpensive way to provide students with new books every year
As with any new tool, you’ll need to spend time learning how e-readers fit in your classroom and lessons. Without these preparations, digital books can derail even the most meticulous reading curriculum.
Use these ideas to ensure that you, your students and your classroom are ready for the introduction of this new reading tool.
Create a Dedicated Charging Station
If your e-readers aren’t charged, your students can’t use them, causing unnecessary hiccups in your new initiative. That’s why one of the first things you need to do is create a space where students can store and charge their e-readers when not in use.
Depending on the structure of your class, this can be easier than you think, and won’t necessarily require you to buy something expensive. A proper, functional charging station only needs two things:
1. Separate spaces to place the devices
2. Access to power from those spaces
Some of the simplest charging stations I’ve seen were made from little more than an oversized dish rack and a pair of power strips. Students simply place their e-readers into the dish rack slots and plug into the nearby strips.
You can also make charging stations out of:
One benefit of storage systems like these is that they increase accountability. Is an e-reader missing from the charging station at the end of a class? You’ll be able to know immediately and make sure that the device can be accounted for. In addition, students have a safe place to keep their devices, reducing the risk of losing or damaging them.
Develop Consistent Plans for Using E-Reading Devices
Take time before introducing the tool to create a plan for how you and your students will use it. There are three important details to include you in your plan:
Introduction: While the digital citizens sitting in your classroom are likely tech savvy, there is still a chance they won’t know how to operate the e-reader, or what parts of the device they’re expected to use.
This can result in confusion or distraction, both of which prevent the student from actually using the e-reader to read. This means you need to create an introduction or integration plan—even just taking time to show students how to turn the device on and open a book can save a lot of time and frustration later on.
“Since all the readers in your classroom would look the same, students won’t necessarily know they’re being differentiated to. This can eliminate the shame that some students may feel at being assigned lower-level texts, or encourage students to try new books without being singled out.”
Consistent system: Create a consistent system for when and how students will interact with the e-readers. This kind of routine will help lessen the novelty of the device—which can be an additional source of distraction—and help the students adapt to using it as another classroom tool.
Assigning e-readers: If you have the resources to create a 1:1 environment, this is easy: assign every student an e-reader at the beginning of the year, and have them return it when before summer break.
If your classroom is not 1:1, you will need to have students consistently use the same-numbered device every time. For example, have the first student on your roster always take Device #1. This level of specialization will allow you to track devices and provide more freedom to differentiate your content from student to student. With this system, you can be sure each device is filled with what each student needs to be reading, rather than having to put a standard set of texts onto every e-reader.
This system has another benefit: anonymity. Since all the readers in your classroom would look the same, students won’t necessarily know they’re being differentiated to. This can eliminate the shame that some students may feel at being assigned lower-level texts, or encourage students to try new books without being singled out—you may see more girls reading ‘boy books,’ sports fans reading fantasy novels.
Always Have Spares in the Classroom
One of the few complaints teachers have about switching to e-readers is that they provide students with excuses to not do classwork, ranging from “My tablet’s not charged!” to “My e-reader froze so I can’t do any more work today.” If a classroom uses e-readers exclusively, it can seem like there are no fixes to get the student back on track.
In some cases, these complaints are legitimate; technology is technology, and sometimes, things stop working as intended. However, letting these kinds of setbacks happen frequently gives students the idea that they can get out of classwork by ‘forgetting’ to bring their e-reader to school or letting it run out of power on their desk instead of putting it on the charging station all night.
“As an incentive for students to charge and take care of their devices, these emergency e-readers may be “less fun,” by being limited to just the needed texts.”
If we want to be effective teachers, we have to be willing to face and account for these possibilities. To combat these potential issues, keep a smaller set of unassigned e-readers and chargers in class, pre-loaded with what the student would need to get through a day of class.
With this “emergency supply,” students whose devices are genuinely broken will not be without the materials they need to keep up in class, and won’t feel punished for something out of their control.
As an incentive for students to charge and take care of their devices, these emergency e-readers may be “less fun,” by being limited to just the needed texts—no additional apps or games that the students enjoy.
If extra e-readers aren’t in your budget, use paper copies as spares. This will motivate the nonchalant students to take care of their e-readers and bring them to class.
Can’t Afford an E-Reader? No Problem!
You can take advantage of a number of digital resources that will allow your students the same level of accessibility as an e-reader would. Platforms like Myon, Actively Learn, and Skybrary by the new Reading Rainbow provide access to hundreds of digital books, of all levels, from any web browser.
E-readers can help to get students excited about reading, while teaching them how to be accountable for their devices. Not to mention these reading tools encourage deeper engagement with the text and provide you with an inexpensive way to introduce to students to new books without having to buy them.
Consider whether e-readers fit into your classroom ecosystem, make a plan, and start reading!