Audrey Watters does a great job summarizing the "state of the state" of e-book pilots and challenges in "The Truth About Tablets: Educators are Getting iPads and Ereaders into Student's Hands - But It's Not Easy" in February 1, 2012 Digital Shift department of Library Journal.
Illustration by Dave Cutler (Source)*
After summarizing some pilot projects of a few school districts and detailing current challenges to school libraries when implementing ereader programs. Ms Watters enumerates five legitimate Sticking Points:
These are the top five issues libraries face when it comes to using ereaders and tablets in school.
- Platform lock-in and lack of interoperability
- Administering devices
- Availability of the titles students and teachers want
- Integration of the ebook catalog with the library catalog
- Cost of both devices and ebook
Here is my modest proposal: School libraries should stop trying to provide ereader devices to students and concentrate on providing access to e-books that will work on as wide a variety of devices as possible for specific curricular purposes.
Such a plan would support both 1:1 initiatives and BYOD projects. It would encourage the serious examination of "why" an e-format is preferable to a paper format. If devices are to be provided, they should be a part of a student's IEP and a serious assessment of their effectiveness should done a part of that IEP.
For elementary students, web-based collections make the most sense, especially when they are accessible from home and can be used simultaneously by multiple readers. Borrowing limits, platform compatibility (except Flash perhaps), and image quality would not be issues.
For secondary students, the focus should be on titles that would be used primarily for research and curriculum support. Again, I would ONLY consider titles that were available in formats that can be read by apps and programs that are available on Windows, MacOS, iOs, and Android systems. To me, e-books are a logical extension of providing other short-time use materials online - reference materials, full-text periodical databases, etc.
Let's get real. No publisher is going to sell a library a copy of The Hunger Games for lower cost than a print copy, give libraries the ability to put it on multiple devices to be used by multiple readers at the same time forever, and strip DRM from the file. At best, libraries will get popular titles for a slightly lower cost than print version, available with DRM, and available to one reader at a time on specific devices.
I engage in wishful thinking as much as the next person, I suppose, but ranting, waiting, and piloting ad infinitum will not provide materials to students in forms that are economical and useful. Keep buying the latest vampire titles in paper and those books to support that science units in e-format.
Move forward - intelligently.
* Since I was taken to task by SLJ for using an illustration from their website in a previous post, I thought I would explain here why the use of such illustrations squarely meets my understanding of Fair Use guidelines:
- The illustration is used for purposes of comment and criticism.
- The illustration is properly cited and only a portion of a the larger work (the column).
- I receive no monetary advantage for using the illustration (there is no commercial aspect to this blog) nor does its use deprive the creator of profit from the work.
- The use is for educational purposes.
That being said, if the owner of the work asks that it not be used here, I would remove it.