eBook Educators Group

where educators come to learn from one another

Is the Kindle or Kindle Fire the Best Device for Schools?

As with everything, the answer to this question comes from the answer to another question, which is "What is your goal for the use of the devices?" The best Kindle for each school is the one that best helps it accomplish its educational mission.

So, Kindle or Kindle Fire? When the Kindle e-ink reader came out, many people, including yours truly, saw a tremendous impact for teaching and learning. Suddenly, many of the barriers to text access were torn down, and anyone with a Kindle and an internet connection could download and read the complete works of Shakespeare, Mark Twain, or any other of the greatest writers of our culture. That's a sea change.

Moreover, the arrival of digital text in a mobile reader like the Kindle meant that these works of literature could be delivered to students almost anywhere, not just when they got their turn on the classroom computer or were in the once-a-week class in the computer lab. In the early days of the Kindle, schools purchased classroom sets of Kindles or, in some cases, Kindles to be distributed to the whole student body.

Even better, rudimentary statistics about how the Kindles were used, what texts were read, how much progress a student had made in his/her reading began to provide even more actionable information for teachers than they had ever had before. And for students, the ability to manipulate the text's font size meant that students with a wide variety of learning and perceptual difficulties could now scan and digest the text itself more easily.

For librarians, the ability to manage their growing digital collections in the browser was a big if scary step forward. Librarians, though, are a hardy band and they conquered and expanded on leverage provided by digital text and mobile reading platforms, developing Kindle check out programs for the library, and managing the distribution of the texts more easily.

Today, the advantages of the Kindle e-ink versions, including the glorious new Paperwhite, are many. If reading, text distribution, and data generation are the highest goals for your device roll out, then the Kindle is the best option for schools. Even though all Kindles have a browser, the experience of using the browser on a Paperwhite or other e-ink Kindle is not likely to satisfy most self-respecting kids. But it is, perhaps, the best device for reading that was ever created. We have commented in this blog about the special abilities that the device has for logging student reading fluencies, and these are not insignificant, given that a time consuming "running record" has been the go-to method for obtaining data on student reading for decades.

Add to these substantive features the very low power requirements of the Paperwhite and other e-ink Kindles and you have a marriage made in heaven for most reading and language arts teachers.

But the choice between Kindle and Kindle Fire HD involves other factors as well. Schools wishing to provide students with many of the "reading-centric" features I've mentioned but that also want to enrich those features with a full multi-media experience, then the Kindle Fire HD is the device to choose. The entire Amazon reading ecosystem is available in the Kindle HD, but it is combined with the multimedia and "entertainment" features that form the basis of the Amazon business model for these devices.

Now that is not all bad. It means that students can read a chapter of Huck Finn and watch a video of Mark Twain at his house, taken by, of all people, Thomas Edison! With the advances in online course building, including courses published as MOOCs, the Kindle HD makes sense if teachers want to "flip the classroom" and have students intake lectures outside of class and use class time to discuss them and build critical thinking skills.

Any educational resource you can imagine providing students that involves video or audio, or that has an advanced interactive interface requiring a touch screen can be distributed on the Kindle Fire HD. The device also has an onboard camera that can be used for all kinds of good things in science and social studies classes, not to mention the art projects that can be taught using the full color touch screen and the many apps available for the device.

As with any device that is primed for more than reading, the Kindle Fire HD will give teachers more to be concerned about than the e-ink Kindle. Social media accounts are readily accessible on the Fire, as are any other websites that can be accessed via a web browser. And although the battery life of these later devices is much better than it used to be, the Fire HD will still need a recharge more often than the Paperwhite, for example.

So, what's your objective in adding a mobile device at your school? Are you most committed to providing a reading experience, loaded with instructional opportunities, at lower cost, easier maintenance, and greater institutional control? Then your choice may very well be Kindle.

Or are you looking for a fully featured touch screen device that is still competitively priced and loaded with educational features that can cover the reading part of your curriculum but also have relevance in your other classrooms? If so, maybe Kindle Fire HD is the choice.

Many schools don't even see this question as an "either/or" dilemma, purchasing devices to be used differently to access different parts of the curriculum. Now that Amazon has created a content management system, Whispercast, for organizations to use in deploying a fleet of devices, schools can reasonably gauge the amount of time and effort it will take to set up devices and maintain them.

Which way do your inclinations and teaching philosophy lean in this debate. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Views: 1822


You need to be a member of eBook Educators Group to add comments!

Join eBook Educators Group

Comment by Kyle Dunbar on August 27, 2014 at 1:03pm

Thank you so much for describing so many of the advantages and disadvantages of the ereaders. Last year we began using Nook HDs and Kindles in different classrooms. The Nooks have some advantages because you can turn off apps and have separate students logins. We were able to use the Nooks in two separate classes with students logging in and out as themselves. Like many things in teaching, a lot came down to setting expectations with the students, using a high interest text (we read Wonder by R.J. Palacio) and keeping students on tasks. Student surveys indicated that they really like using the dictionary tool and the highlighting and commenting tools. Students also felt they read longer and more on the Nooks. The Kindles were managed more loosely and while their was some anecdotal evidence that students took great pride in using the Kindles, it is less clear what impact it had on their reading comprehension or reading engagement.

Last spring we sent 13 Nooks home with students. We identified rising 7th and 8th graders that were "turning the corner" with reading. Students that were showing an interest in reading but were still reading below grade level. These students also did not have access to much technology in their homes. A huge advantage to using the Nooks was that they had access to the public library and school library apps and were able to borrow books and audio books. Students will be returning to school next week so I will try to leave another post after we gather these students back and hear about their experiences reading over the summer.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to share and to hear others' thoughts on this topic!

Comment by Belann Earley on August 27, 2014 at 11:59am

I jumped on the band wagon with Kindles with the keyboard two years ago for my middle school library.  There was a certain amount of excitement for awhile.  I had a couple broken right away, and Amazon replaced one.  Just after the year warranty was up, I had several freeze, and a couple of broken screens.  Amazon could only offer me replacements at a cost.  Middle schoolers are not the most careful group, especially when the Kindles (all had covers) ended up in backpacks.  We warned against putting them in backpacks, but if they didn't do that, they left them in classes.  I backed off after this experience.  We still have e-books, but I encourage students to install apps on their own devices to use them.  I have some iPad minis for use in the library, but I do not check them out to students.

Comment by JH on August 27, 2014 at 10:53am

The overall kindle experience, nearly 2 years now, here has been mixed.  I've never really been too forgiving of the fact that the Amazon rep basically lied misstated how sharing across 20 devices would actually work. The Whispercast system addressed that although it is fairly clunky and its advanced features of pushing a single configuration (lock down parental controls, wifi password, etc) do not work with the 1st gen Fires.

The most frequent complaint from students is that they wanted an audio option, and the most frequent praise was for the ability to google words and passages from within a book.

We have a teacher piloting a few Paperwhites with a class now, I'm hopeful that a stripped-down "just-a-reader" will fare a bit better than the Fires.

Comment by Joanne F. Christensen on August 27, 2014 at 10:36am

I personally like both formats.  A recent article in The Guardian gives educators another perspective on this issue. 


Comment by Catherine Nemesnyik on August 27, 2014 at 10:25am

I agree with Mary Alice Powers.  Our schools are moving to 1:1 Chromebooks for grades 4 through 8.  Because of this, I see teachers and students wanting to use these devices for eBooks.  

Comment by Donna Yliniemi on July 18, 2014 at 11:13am

I love Kindle and really would like to  use it the best way way in my school.  Younger students don't

 have devices, so I have to give them something to read. Older students might have a device, but do they read?  I think a variety of sources is the best way to go.  

Comment by Joanne Hammond on July 18, 2014 at 10:03am
Four elementary schools in my district have had Kindle Fires for two years and we have had two librarians work closely with two classroom teachers and two learning support teachers to do a project that had half a class reading a novel on the Kindle Fire and half the class reading a print copy of the book, then halfway through the semester the groups switch, so that the Kindle Fire students read the print copy and the print copy students read on the Kindle Fire. All students have to answer literacy-based questions about their reading and they have to blog their responses. Both years, student response has indicated that reading for pleasure on the Kindle Fire is fine, but reading for content is much easier with a print copy. In a low-performing school that had Kindle keyboard models for two years before getting Kindle Fires, which they have also had for two years (meaning 4 years of using Kindles), teachers are going back to using print resources because of the high demand that they move the students at least one year's growth level each school year.
Comment by Liz Nebeker on July 18, 2014 at 8:55am
I have been trying to decide what ereader would be best for my program. My goal is to get my students reading anyway I can. I think the Kindle Fire is a device my kids would use more. It is my goal this year to get some devices into circulation.
Comment by Mary Alice Powers on June 30, 2014 at 3:02pm

At first, PaperWhite Kindles were popular but then came the mini Ipads.  For about 4 years, I purchased ebooks for our Kindles and they circulated pretty well.  However, last year our K-12 school became a 1:1 school as all students in grades 3 -12 have Chromebooks.  Kindle circulation has dropped dramatically and now I'm looking at ebook vendors marketing to schools (like OverDrive).  I personally and professionally straddle both worlds, print and electronic, as it depends on my purpose---I confess I love the tactile sense of a great print picture book shared with little ones rather than its counterpart on my SmartBoard or iPad.

Comment by Kacey Reynolds on June 30, 2014 at 2:39pm
We launched a checkout program at our school with the competitor. Like Robin,I that my students still preferred the print to the ebook. Whether it was the titles that were selected to be loaded, the promo or their age group, the devices just did not fly off the shelves. Don't get me wrong the checkout was steady, probably from word of mouth. I can see where these devices would be great for textbooks, classroom novel sets and getting those "it" titles in their hands quickly. I think it is just either having enough exposure to the devices or a shift in the paradigms of how we, students and teachers, view what reading is.

© 2019   Created by Will DeLamater.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service