Using Amazon’s Kindle for Classroom Research
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Because we have limited computer lab access at my school, it is nearly impossible to get a class of 24 into a computer lab for multiple days. With the Amazon Kindle, however, my students can begin their research in the computer lab and continue it back in the classroom. And as Kindles and other e-readers develop basic Web browsers, they become a viable alternative to computers. Last week, for instance, my class used Kindle's apps and functions to research William Shakespeare and his writing. Read on to see four tips for doing research on the Amazon Kindle or other e-reader.
Research Tip 1: Use Instapaper and SENDtoREADER
The Web applications Instapaper and SENDtoREADER allow students to “save Web pages for reading later.” For the sake of my students' computer lab time, I created free accounts for each of our 30 classroom Kindles. The SENDtoREADER application puts a “bookmarklet” into the Favorites bar in your browser. When a student wants to send a Web page to their Kindle, they simply click the Read Later button on the browser. This one click sends the Web page in a “clean” format to the specified Kindle address. Instapaper works in a very similar way.
Teacher Tip: To avoid charges from Amazon, be sure to use the FREE Kindle email account.
Research Tip 2: Create and Email PDF Documents
Kindles read a variety of digital formats, including PDFs that students create using a PDF creator program. My school uses TinyPDF to convert Web sites or documents into PDF format. After downloading the TinyPDF Web application to the computer, students pull up the Web site or document they want transferred and hit Print. Instead of printing to the printer, however, they select TinyPDF as their printer. It saves their document or Web page as a PDF file. Students then open their email account and email their saved PDF files to their Kindles.
Teacher Tip: As students send information to their Kindles, the Kindle homepage will become cluttered. Making sure students can find and access their reading will prevent frustrated students. Step 1 to organizing PDFs on the Kindle is having students name their files with their class period, their last name, and the file name. Step 2 is having students file their research into a collection, so that they don't have to scroll through multiple screens of downloaded material.
Research Tip 3: Highlight Text and Make Notes
The Kindles allow students to highlight and make notes in their text. To make notes on the PDF document, students move the cursor to where they want the note to appear and begin typing. After typing the note, students may save the note to the Kindle, save and share it on a social networking site, or clear and cancel it. This allows students to go back through their notes and re-read the important points.
Research Tip 4: Use the Kindle’s Experimental Browser
With the Kindle’s experimental Web browser, students may access the same Web pages they access on computers. The Web pages do lose some functionality, but the content remains. I often have to remind my students that Kindles don't have touch-screens, as they are often used to the iPod touch or iPad. We have also hit a few challenges. When all 24 Kindles are used at once, my wireless router cannot handle the traffic. And the Kindle's browser will crash if buttons are clicked too fast. But overall the Kindle has been an enormous asset to my class, especially when it comes to research.
Have you found useful tools for conducting research in your classroom? Do you have tips to share? Please comment below.