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The Kindle is often touted as a solution to textbooks in schools. Primarily, advocates feel it would be well placed in universities, helping to relieve the mass of textbooks carted from class to class. However, a pilot test at Princeton University in which 50 students were given a Kindle for three of their courses showed that in just two weeks, the students were less than impressed with the device as a substitute for textbooks, even calling it a "poor excuse of an academic tool." Part of the reason for the luke-warm feelings toward the device, which is supposed to help lighten backpacks, cut costs, save trees, and make new books easy to access, is that the completely different format for absorbing information requires relearning how to, well, learn.
From the Daily Princetonian:
"I hate to sound like a Luddite, but this technology is a poor excuse of an academic tool," said Aaron Horvath '10, a student in Civil Society and Public Policy. "It's clunky, slow and a real pain to operate."
Horvath said that using the Kindle has required completely changing the way he completes his coursework.
"Much of my learning comes from a physical interaction with the text: bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing, sticky notes and other marks representing the importance of certain passages -- not to mention margin notes, where most of my paper ideas come from and interaction with the material occurs," he explained. "All these things have been lost, and if not lost they're too slow to keep up with my thinking, and the 'features' have been rendered useless."
Even professors feel the same, that a quality learning experience requires getting hands-on with books and perhaps the Kindle just won't cut it in this department. There's another issue that comes up with switching from books to the Kindle - page numbers.
"The Kindle doesn't give you page numbers; it gives you location numbers. They have to do that because the material is reformatted," Katz said. He noted that while the location numbers are "convenient for reading," they are "meaningless for anyone working from analog books."
Though using a Kindle is voluntary, no one has opted out of using a Kindle in Katz' class, so he has permitted his students to use location numbers in their written work for the course.
That isn't to say the Kindle is useless. While the tool requires features that make it easier to mark up texts for university students, children in junior high and high school - who are actively encouraged not to mark up texts and who are used to learning without marking up their books, could still benefit from the current Kindle. Not that it would make it into schools before updated Kindles arrive on the market, one that would probably have more hands-on, easy note-taking features... But university students need something more hands-on, something more interactive and navigable, something they're used to using, something like (the nearly here) Apple's Tablet?!
Still, retraining ourselves to learn from one electronic device rather than many text books is a big task, and one that will take time. But any major switch like this is bound to have a lot of feedback for developers to sort through as they design the next iteration of Kindle devices that are more appropriate for university settings than simply taking your favorite novels on a plane.