To Ban or Not to Ban: Kindle in the Classroom?

A student took her Kindle to school one day, only to have it taken away as an unapproved device.  The above student was doing nothing more than reading before class–the activity for which the e-reader was made.

In the same school, some students carry–and play with–ipads.  They browse the internet on Kindle Fires or watch movies on ipods.

When did reading become a crime?  When did books become unapproved devices?

On one level, I get the argument: it is an electronic device.  However, the original e-ink readers are nothing more than literary etch-a-sketches.  Nobody is watching movies on them or texting on them.  They are reading.  Because, really, that is the sole purpose of a designated e-reader.  It’s the only thing it does well.

By taking away a portable library, I think schools are undermining a great and educational hobby.  They are forcing kids to choose between carrying thick books or no books at all.  They take away the privacy of shy readers who may not want to be ridiculed for reading certain books (the jock who reads Twilight or the struggling readers whose thin books and juvenilish titles easily peg them as “dumb”).  Will these readers simply quit reading if their only other choice is being the butt of a joke?

What says you?  Do you feel that designated e-readers should be banned from the classroom?  Why or why not?  Which factors should be used to determine if individual devices are a hindrance or a benefit? 

Teachers, in particular, please pipe up.  I’d love to have your experienced wisdom in helping me determine where I stand on the issue.

Curious minds really, really want to know.

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18 responses to “To Ban or Not to Ban: Kindle in the Classroom?

  1. I’m really curious to know how the child’s parents reacted, and what the school’s response was.

    I’d certainly be happy to know my child was reading before class.

    I think classroom rules need to be consistent and logical. If children are allowed to read before class, then whether they read a physical book or on on e-reader should be irrelevant.

    • I agree with your perspective. The method of delivery shouldn’t matter. Now if the student was playing a game on it, that would be another story altogether.

      Thanks for adding your pennies to the pile of wisdom.

  2. I would love to know where this was. I am a teacher and where I am, there is currently talk of possibly having school iPads to help students learn with the technology that is prevalent. I encourage students, especially with difficult texts, to listen to the podcasts while reading, our library has playaways that students can check out, etc. I would appeal this decision, especially in the light that studies have proven that ereaders are beneficial to reluctant readers, raising their comprehension and ability to read because of the interactive features.

    • Thanks so much for weighing in. I was hoping educators would see the same side of this issue as I do. I think technology is a tremendous addition to the educational arena, in particular when it allows kids more easily study at a comfortable pace.

      My dyslexic son used a Kindle to read an English novel. His quiz scores went from 28-35% to 89-100% with the use of text to speech. Sometimes the style a book is written in is difficult for some kids to comprehend. This added technology leveled the playing field.

  3. Feels like something else might have happened? Full context is everything?

    At my kids school, all 8th graders are issued a Kindle. This device is their responsibility to use and take care of. As a literture rich charter school, our kids read a great deal (gosh, I hope this is true at every school!) and nearly all of those texts can be loaded onto the Kindle. Overall it is cheaper for us to provide kids with Kindles than it is to purchase mutliple copies of all of the books. Next year we will probably move to 7th grade with the Kindles. This has been well received and is a super great way to get kids reading, keep them reading AND help the kids do better with auditory learning vs visual learning.

    E-readers don’t solve all problems. I used e-copies of several grad school texts in an effort to save money. I found note taking and references to be challenging, but perhaps this is an “old dog/new trick” issue. I am a highlighter and a margin scribbler and like to be able to see what I have written. So while I appreciate the savings in my pocketbook it made the course much more difficult.

    Schools will need to carefully review policies and understand the changing technology landscape. Baby/bathwater policies are seldomly the most effective, through the easiest to craft and adminster.

    • Trust me, I have the full context and it would shed even less favorable light on the education side of this if I spilled the details.

      In part, this is to blame: “Schools will need to carefully review policies and understand the changing technology landscape. Baby/bathwater policies are seldomly the most effective, through the easiest to craft and adminster.”

      It is easier to single-mindedly enforce (a policy that doesn’t even explicitly refuse e-reader use) than it is to consider the situation and make an informed decision based on individual circumstances. Had this child been surfing the web, that would have been one thing. But reading…?

  4. I understand if the child was playing games or opening email or something. But if it’s just for reading, then that should be okay. Kids need all the encouragement to read they can get!

    But eReaders now are more than just for reading, which is kind of a shame. I know some people who have eReaders with only a couple books on them and twenty games. Hmmm. Something’s not right about that!

    • Laura,

      I think this is partially the problem. Not all e-readers are dedicated to reading. With the kindle Fire and the other advanced tablets, the potential for doing so much more is there. It’s the reason why I wanted to feel around and see what others thought of the ban. I get that there are complications and it might just be easier to ban anything with a battery than to actually check and see what kids are doing with such devices.

      Technology is great, but complicated…

  5. As far as I’m concerned, if the student isn’t being disruptive and there’s nothing going on anyway, it’s none of the teacher’s damned business. As a parent, I would have first jumped on the “taking away.” If the teacher is too far behind the times to acknowledge an ereader as a way of *reading a book*, then tell the kid to turn it off and put it away. Second, I’d want to know if reading before class if forbidden, and if so, why? When school bureaucracy is guided by “unapproved device” and nobody questions that, then the whole system is screwed.

  6. If they have a list of ‘authorized’ electronic devices, I’m surprised the kindle isn’t on the list. I’m definitely on the side of e-readers in general: They’re books, with bonuses, and so good for the schooling of a young person.

    • Thanks for the feedback. This seems to be the general concensus all around, and mostly what I expected. Anything that gets kids reading, in my mind, is a great tool and should be welcomed with open arms.

  7. As a kid I once had a real book taken away from me when the teacher caught me reading during math (The Neverending Story vs. division – which do you think is going to win?). Later, when she gave it back, she laughed at how strange it was to punish me for reading and complimented me for my choice of distraction, but reminded me that there was a time and place for that.

    I think it’s really about respecting the teacher in his/her classroom. If a teacher wants to draw certain boundaries around the use of electronic devices, I don’t see it as necessarily a problem. Kids get enough screen time as it is.

    • LOL, Christina. Neverending Story any day!

      And I agree about respecting a teacher’s classroom rules, but the teacher used the argument that Kindles were against school policy. Something the principal couldn’t back up as true or not because he’d never considered it prior to this incident.

      And what teacher would have a policy against reading a book between classes?

  8. Yikes! That’s totally bizarre! I’ve got 3 kids who are lucky enough to own ereaders in my class and they bring them in all the time. I offer to lock them up for them if they want to keep them safe, but they never take me up on it. They want to have access to them throughout the day. It’s great! I’ve brought in my own Kindle and used my iPod touch in the class to read books aloud to the kids. I want them to see the new technologies and how easy it is to download books and read. It’s beyond my comprehension that anyone would confiscate a book or an ereader!

    • Have I ever told you how much I love you? Seriously. Again you are the model for forward thinking education and your students are so blessed to have a proactive, educational advocate like you. I bet your classroom test scores rock out of sheer student love. They don’t want to disappoint the best teacher around.

      Hugs and thanks for your input. It’s an interesting issue.

  9. It appears that some USA schools no longer wish to ‘Kindle’ the literary flame within the hearts of America’s youth.

    I feel anyone or any entity choosing to ban or limit books, electronic or otherwise, is not encouraging multi-level analytical free thinking, research, study, human diversity of thought, and are standing tall against the fundamental desires of mankind regarding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    One needs to possess the ability to look beyond the letter of the law into the spirit of the law. For security purposes (I am the former Diplomatic Security Shift Supervisor – US Embassy, Oslo, Norway) I see why a school may not allow ‘electronic devices’ through its doors, even those not listed, but each ‘new’ electronic experience needs to be handled appropriately.

    Once determined by the school board AND the PTA, there should be no valid reason for a problem (in my opinion), even if the device must remain on campus during off hours if school issued – for safety concerns. But to stand against a child wishing to only use a reader … well … it appears we are well through the door of Fahrenheit 451 – 2012 AD.

    • Royce~

      Thanks so much for adding your perspective to this matter. I’d obviously never given the security issue a thought when putting together this post, so it was enlightening to hear about it.

      Your support for Kindles and e-readers in the classroom despite the potential risks really packs a punch.

      Our world is changing so quickly due to technology and this is having a profound impact on our education systems. Schools will have to strongly consider individual electronic devices and weigh the pros and cons of each, without applying a blanket policy that can greatly diminish our children’s opportunities to tap into the future.

      Thanks again!

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