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Nokukhanya Zondo (left) receives her Kindle eReader from David Ansara

Mark Oppenheimer teaches students at St. Francis College to use a Kindle

eLibrary project using Kindle eReaders in schools

Is this the future of textbooks?
he eLibrary Project is dedicated to literacy development in South Africa through the use of eReaders. This initiative could play a significant role in improving the reading experience and academic advancement of children in disadvantaged schools. Officially launched at its beneficiary school, St Francis College on 26 July this year, it aims to promote literacy development by providing teens with Kindle eReaders to supplement their access to literature. A Mail & Guardian article on 24 August emphasised the point that “government and the education sector urgently need to explore alternatives. Electronic reading devices, known as eReaders, could provide a sustainable longterm solution”. Principal Dian Cockcroft, members of the public, corporate donors, learners and teachers attended a special assembly during the launch to celebrate the hand-over of the devices. Each of the 60 learners will have their own Kindle for a year, which will be used in the classroom and school library, and comes preloaded with 300 textbooks. The excited Grade 11s were also tutored on how to use the Kindles by the project directors, Mark Oppenheimer and David Ansara. “There is a strong research component to the project,” says Mark Oppenheimer, Co-Director of the eLibrary Project. “We have measured students’ current reading ability in addition to their interest in reading before they were exposed to the devices. This will be used as a benchmark to measure the impact that the devices have on the learners’ reading ability and behaviour.” The pilot project will run from July 2012 to June 2013, after which the research outcomes will be submitted to policymakers and NGOs to assist them in determining whether eBook Readers should be implemented more widely.

The Kindle

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Kindle uses e-ink technology which makes for a much more comfortable reading experience. Although the Kindle has basic web-browsing ability, it is primarily designed as a reader which means that students won’t be distracted as they would be with other multi-media devices. The advantage of the Kindle is that it provides learners with access to a large volume of information. The Kindle can store up to 1 400 books, has a battery life of one month, and typically costs around R1 200 including taxes and shipping. Many books prescribed at school level are copyright-free and Kindles may be a cost-effective way of providing students with access to great literature from around the world. David Ansara, co-director of the eLibrary Project, says: “We are also very proud to be associated with Pan MacMillan Publishers, who have kindly donated a range of eBook titles by prominent local authors including Mandy Weiner, Khaya Dlanga and Jonathan Jansen.” An article in the Daily Maveric on 17 August by Paul Berkowitz quoted St Francis school principal, Mrs Dian Cockcroft, saying that “the achievements of the pupils whose parents become actively involved in their education are even greater”. So yes, eBooks may solve the printing and distribution problems around traditional textbooks; reading gadgets may be more appealing to modern-day learners; but it is the family structure and the parents who need to instil a culture of learning in their children and motivate them to want to read. l This library news is proudly brought to you by Libwin – your trusted partner in library and textbook management. www.libwin.com – 0860 LIBWIN – 011 622 3431

What are Kindle eReaders?

Kindles are easy-to-use devices that are designed specifically for reading. Unlike other tablet devices such as the iPad, the

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September 2012 | Education Southern Africa