Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Netbooks or eBook Readers for Students?

I posted the following as a reply to Ken Royal’s post, “Digital Readers Make Education Sense” today:

Ken: Why would you advocate that teachers get simple eReaders for students, when full-fledged Netbooks can be obtained which are less expensive and do so much more? The Ubuntu software installation image by Open 1:1 has over 100 applications included on it, is totally free, and eBook readers are just one of those. I share your enthusiasm for helping students who may not have previously been excited about reading or writing change their attitudes and behaviors… but it seems netbooks offer a much more protean/versatile platform than an eBook reader. Plus, netbooks allow students to become content creators and writers, where simple ebooks do not…. Open 1:1 is on:

I checked out the latest Sony eBook readers today at a mall in Dallas. Although they look very snazzy, and I’m definitely sold on the value of eBook readers for consumers, I remain convinced inexpensive netbooks are the best choice for student 1:1  learning devices today.

Sony eBook Readers

If you are considering any type of 1:1 project for students, be sure to check out Jim Klein’s excellent resource, “Linux on Netbooks.” Resources for our Storychaser’s Mobile Learning Collaborative (including Ubuntu on Linux links) are available on our blog and project wiki.

This post was mobile blogged from a Dell Mini10 netbook running Win7  (haven’t got connectivity figured out yet for my AT&T USB data card on Ubuntu) and the Google Chrome web browser on the Heartland Flyer Amtrak train enroute from Ft Worth to Oklahoma City.

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7 responses to “Netbooks or eBook Readers for Students?”

  1. Gary Stager Avatar

    Investing in eBook readers now, especially instead of full-function personal multimedia computers is a profoundly bad idea.

    An equally bad idea is using laptops as textbooks.

    We ought to try investing in books, real books and personal computers – truly personal computers, before we get distracted by another single-purpose device.

    PS: Your captcha has gotten more annoying and harder to read.

  2. Lisa Nielsen Avatar

    I agree that single-purpose devices are not the way to go. We can read books, play music, take pictures, and more using our netbooks, smartphones, etc. We don’t need to get sucked into purchasing another device.

  3. Dodie Avatar

    I know students with special needs who truly benefit from having an eReader, but I don’t see them becoming common place in the classroom.
    Students with netbooks, yeah- I can see that and would love to work in such an environment. I would love to see textbooks go the way of the overhead- at least definitely paper/printed textbooks. We need to encourage the development of digital resources that are developed with true learning in mind and can be used in parts, as needed to fulfill the purpose of the learning that day. (Instead of the mass produced textbooks that not only become outdated but do not fit learning purposes for all)
    eReaders, netbooks, smartphones, itablet?…who knows but it definitely will be small and mobile- and be multipurpose.
    Only time will tell…

  4. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Ken posted the following as a reply to this on his blog:

    Hello Wesley,

    You probably haven’t read my Don’t Knock Netbooks—Think Education! or other posts at the Educators’ Royal Treatment that suggest looking at more than just one tech possibility, and especially netbooks. Take a look and you’ll discover where I really stand. Furthermore, I advocate solutions based on students needs, but also those that make district sense. Those readers do that, just as netbooks in their niche do what they need to do. I could go further, but I think viewing more at the ERT would help.


    This was my reply:


    Thanks for the reference to your Don’t Knock Netbooks—Think Education” post. In your post about eBooks it sounded like you were advocating them for all contexts, and not considering netbooks. I’m glad to learn that is not the case.

    I noticed your blog’s right sidebar, you have a graphical link to the “Studentmate” with the alt text, “Studentmate – The only sub $299 total cost of ownership 1:1 notebook for education.”

    What studies or evidence is that claim based on? If you have direct links to those on your blog, please share them.

    Do you have a financial interest in promoting the Studentmate as a 1:1 hardware solution for schools?

    Do you have a disclosure statement available on your blog?

    I did a search on your blog for “Studentmate” and turned up 3 posts. I see the CEO of Studentmate is one of your team bloggers:

    I found Michael Spencer’s August 2009 post about the Studentmate:

    You might want to include a direct disclosure link or reference in that post specifically.

    I’m not a policeman for the FTC on their blogging disclosure policy annouced this past December– I just saw that sidebar link and it triggered the above questions.


  5. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Gary: I agree with your point that information access does not equal education, and school funds are not well spent in eBook devices.

    Sorry my captcha is still not to your liking – Those are changes implemented by the recaptcha folks, not by me. I’m glad you were able to post the comment despite the difficulty. I think the recaptcha project is worthwhile and the inconvenience it poses as a wordpress plugin is offset by the benefit to the program of using it. I think I saw that you’re using WordPress – do you know of an easier/better captcha plugin that you recommend?

  6. Matt Montagne Avatar

    I don’t think the answer to the question posed in your blog post title needs to be an either or proposition. A possibility for some schools might be both…consider that a powerful netbook computer may be purchased for $299 and an eReader for less than $300. That is $600 total, which is FAR less than many laptop schools who are using Macbooks or Windows tablets. In any scenario, I would suggest giving the students and families choice…give the people the power to think up with their own creative hardware mashups that they’ll use for learning. Perhaps you might require a baseline netbook computer, but from there some students may choose to add an iTouch, some may choose to add an eReader, etc. We talk a great deal about the creative things that can be achieved with software mashups…I would submit that creative possibilities exist with hardware mashups as well.

  7. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Matt: I agree we should be giving students and families the option to bring their own hardware to school and use it. I know Tim Wilson is working toward that goal in his Minnesota district. I think it is pretty rare to find at this point, however.

    I also agree this doesn’t have to be either/or. I am loving my netbook but can’t imagine life without my iPhone. The benefits of a smaller, even more portable device like a phone shouldn’t be underestimated.

    One problem I think many schools face, however, is the prevailing assumption that the institution must provide the technology, and it has to look the same for everyone. You are correct to point out this is flawed thinking.