The February 13th video from FoxNews, “Florida School Replaces Textbooks” provides a graphic illustration of why eBooks are the WRONG choice for K-12 learning environments. The 91 second news video also shows how reporters can knowingly manipulate media content to mislead the public and encourage false conclusions about “new eBook reader technologies.” A Kindle ain’t an iPad, but after watching this video some viewers might not understand some of the big differences.
Reading IS a big part of learning, but it’s not the most important part. Education is not about simply reading and consuming content: It’s also about students CREATING knowledge products which permit them to reflect their own understanding (or misunderstanding) of ideas and concepts. We need digital learning devices in the hands of our students which permit them to put aside pencils and paper, and CREATE using digital tools and not simply consume digital texts. Did you notice the WORKSHEETS which students throughout this video were using? That’s because eBooks do NOT represent “the learning revolution” which we need to support in our classrooms. eBooks like the Kindle may allow students to consume some types of rich media, but they certainly do not (at present) provide the robust content creation possibilities of iOS and Android mobile / tablet devices, or laptops / netbooks.
Certainly digital texts have benefits over printed/analog versions, but buying an eBook reader for students is like buying a stream train without any railroad tracks. You can’t fully realize the benefits of digital learning without the ability to readily interact and CREATE content, just as a steam locomotive is hopelessly crippled without tracks and a connection to the railway network.
One important issue raised in this video, which is not mentioned by the reporter, is CIPA content filtering requirements for schools mandated by eRate. Misconceptions about eRate abound in schools today, and some of these are highlighted in the project “Unmasking the Digital Truth” and campaign, “Balanced Filtering in Schools.” While schools are NOT required to block all video sharing sites and interactive websites by CIPA, they ARE required by eRate rules to specifically:
…operate “a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors…”
In this FoxNews video, one of the teachers at the Florida school adopting Kindle eBooks extols the virtues of students being able to directly access the Internet over the local 3G cellular network. This access is available both at school and outside the classroom. From an accessibility standpoint that sounds great, but what about CIPA content filtering? Technically speaking, is the school now at risk for losing their eRate funding (at a minimum, at least a 40% discount on all telecommunications and Internet connectivity bills) if audited because they are NOT providing mandated content filtering? Perhaps.
Did you also notice the creators of this FoxNews clip egregiously manipulated the video, misleading viewers to conclude full-motion videos can be watched on today’s Kindle eBook reader? I’m guessing the news reporters had some of their staff videographers create this effect in post-production because it looks cool, but it’s vital to recognize this media manipulation can lead to significant misconceptions on the part of the public. The Kindle eBook readers I’ve used to date CAN’T display web video like an iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Android tablet. Unfortunately, this “news report” from a mainstream media source attempts to convince the public they can.
As Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner state in their superb book about learning and schools, “Teaching as a Subversive Activity,” we all need to continually develop our own “crap detectors.” On page three of the opening chapter, titled ‘Crap Detecting,’ they wrote:
One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continuing struggle against the veneration of “crap.” Our intellectual history is a chronicle of the anguish and suffering of men who tried to help their contemporaries see that some part of their fondest beliefs were misconceptions, faulty assumptions, superstitions, and even outright lies. The mileposts along the road of our intellectual development signal those points at which some person developed a new perspective, a new meaning, or a new metaphor. We have in mind a new education that would set out to cultivate just such people– experts at “crap detecting.”
It’s unfortunate this FoxNews video is full of– in the words of Postman and Weingartner, “crap.” It’s wonderful, however, we have communication platforms like blogs to point out the specific, misleading falsehoods it contains.
We DO need to embrace digital tools for communication and learning in our schools and homes. I’m not biased against eBook readers in general: We have a first generation Kindle in our home and my wife loves to read on it almost every day. I AM biased, however, against the idea of imposing a 19th century model of learning on a 21st century learner. It’s a waste of money to purchase a $150 eBook for a primarily read-only educational experience, when the same amount of money could purchase an iPod Touch with eReader capabilities PLUS fantastic content creation options like ReelDirector, iMovie, StoryKit, StoryRobe, Cinch, iPadio, AudioBoo, and more.
Here’s a proposed litmus test for classroom digital devices in the 21st century: Do the devices in question allow students to become Storychasers, or simply story consumers? We need to make the shift from media consumers to pro-sumers. eBooks don’t fit the bill. Unfortunately, this FoxNews video segment misses that point and is intentionally misleading as well.
As 21st century educators and learners, we should demand and do better.
Hat tip to Darren (“Right on the Left Coast: Views From a Conservative Teacher”) for sharing this video link.
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