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Sunday
Nov182007

An e-book reader to light my fire?

Amazon is supposed to launch an e-book reader named Kindle tomorrow. According to Steven Levy's article The Future of Reading in Newsweek, the Kindle will use e-paper, allow full text searching, hold about 200 books, and have wireless connectivity. Levy's full article is worth reading for it also talks about the potential changing role of writers. The counter-point view of the Kindle at Information Week is also worth a look.

I've been writing about (and hoping for) an affordable and practical e-book reader and its potential impact on schools and libraries since about 1995, So far I've been disappointed. Despite the logic of moving from cellulose to silicon, things have just not moved at the pace for which I'd hoped.

But one thing that excites me about this gadget is not the device itself, but that Amazon reports to have worked out deals with major publishers to sell e-versions of their best sellers for $9.99. This may do for e-books and e-book readers what the $.99 song did for iTunes and iPods. At less than ten bucks, you aren't paying much more for that latest Daniel Silva or Clive Cussler than for an ad-filled magazine. Oh, with its wireless connectivity, a truly electronic version of magazines can be sent to the Kindle as well.

I've always held the hope that e-book readers just might prove to be of real benefit to struggling readers with the potential for truly differentiated reading materials, built in glossaries, text-to-speech synthesis, etc.

I've darned well waited long enough. This puppy better be good. And at $399, come down in price real soon.

Thanks to Will Richardson's The iPod of Reading post for this head's up about these articles. 

amazon_kindle.jpg  Prototype from Engadget Sept 2006. Sorta buh-tugly, unfortunately 

Thursday
Nov152007

Building 2.0

It was with great delight that I read Jeff Utecht's Thinking Stick post, Tech Plan Part 4 – Implementation, He had taken and IMPROVED upon an old model of tech planning I had written some time ago. Read all his posts on tech planning. They're great.

While I am still unsure about some Web 2.0 tools like Twitter and Facebook and Ning (being a slow-typing, slow-moving, slow-thinking geezer), I am sure the ease with which professional sharing, reaction, and knowledge building has tremendously improved because of a more interactive web.

And it is fun to think that I am able to corrupt a new generation of tech leaders like Jeff. 

From The Thinking Stick blog... 

1996825950_cea08416d0_o.gif 

Thursday
Nov152007

Safe mistakes

email2.jpgThe girl was very upset.

One of our sixth grade girls reported that judging from her sent mail folder on Gaggle.net, someone else had been using her account to send messages. The principal was brought in. The guidance counselor, parents and media specialist all met. And even yours truly, the tech director, got involved.

After some discussion, the girl remembered that she had given her username and password to her "very best friend" at another school, and that they were using the e-mail program at her friend's house on the day the messages (which were innocuous) were sent.

The media specialist changed the girl's password. The counselor gave another talk on cyberbullying. The media specialist emphasized security and privacy in her next lessons. The principal learned the kids actually had e-mail accounts. The tech director was happy this turned into a "teachable moment" for all involved.

It is because of incidents like this that I am glad we have always given our students school sponsored e-mail addresses. It allows kids to make "safe mistakes." The girl and probably her classmates got a real-life lesson in protecting one's password and about identity theft without anyone getting hurt.

It's why we need to give kids as much access to Internet resources as we can while they're in school and while there are responsible adults to whom they can turn if there is a problem. How would this have been handled if the girl had only had a Yahoo account and home access? 

Oh, this sort of thing doesn't happen just to kids either.