Duval County Celebrates Celebrate Literacy Week with Ban on Kindle e-readers in Classroom

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It’s Celebrate Literacy Week in Florida (January 24-28, 2011) .. according to the Duval County public school system website  … “The goals of “Celebrate Literacy Week!” are to promote literacy by raising awareness of the programs and projects offered by Duval County Public Schools and the FLDOE, and most of all, to promote the enjoyment of reading for children and adults of all ages.”

This is really exciting to me because I love reading. My 9 year-old daughter does not. It breaks my heart. She’s a great kid and she’s athletic and adventuresome and somehow to her, sitting down and reading a book has always seemed, well boring.  The fact that the school’s Accelerated Reader Grading system is set up to make reading consuming books compulsory doesn’t help matters. X number of books a week, no matter what – or the report card gets dinged. Yeah, that makes it fun. But that’s not really the point here so I’ll leave that for another day.

Regardless, even though I’m a voracious reader, I’ve never been able to get her excited about reading. That is until this past week.

Recently my old 1st-generation Kindle reader was replaced with a skinny new 3rd generation model. I’ve used the Kindle for years now and love it – it is always with me and she sees me use it all the time. So after I got my new one set up and working, my third-grader – who loves computers and science and technology – timidly approached me and asked if she could use the old one to read on.

Surprisingly I had never considered it before. I told her I didn’t know if there were books at her level available but we would check it out. Sure enough, I logged on to Amazon and there are tons of children books, divided by age/level, and at a cost savings to me the parent over buying all those chapter books. BINGO! We had a plan, over the recent holiday weekend we charged up the old Kindle and downloaded a book or two and guess what! She gobbled them up! She was willing and enthusiastically reading!!! Hot Dog!

So later in the week, in an email back and forth with her teacher about getting her A/R tests caught up I mentioned she was on track again because of the Kindle and the spark of interest it had caused. The teacher’s reply back was enthusiastic and approving.

So imagine my surprise when I got an email today from the same teacher saying she could not allow the Kindle to be used to read at school. (They are to bring their current chapter book to read at school before/after class and in between lessons). She said that while my daughter had been careful and responsible with the reader, and it had not been a distraction in class  (she specifically mentions that) she had conferred with the principal and the use of the Kindle – because it’s electronic – in class was against the Duval County School Board’s policy. She apologizes but says she has to enforce the DCPS rules.

Although I don’t doubt there is a basic truth to her statement – I’ve looked on the DCPS website and can’t find this policy. The Code of Conduct only covers “wireless communication devices” (cell phones) which the Kindle is not. (If someone else can find it please let me know) I have emailed and Tweeted DCPS for a reference to and explanation of the policy but have received no response yet.

So in a week where the enjoyment of reading is supposed to be celebrated in our schools, what little advancement my daughter has made, is being taken away. Sigh. OK well not taken away, clearly she can still use it at home, and she will (she is right now!). But it’s hit a snag and it just sort of discourages me as a parent trying to work with the school system.

So often we hear that our schools would love to embrace technology but are hindered by cost and funding. In reality as a parent I am most often left with the impression that money or the lack there of is a convenient excuse. That – at least with the majority – there is no real drive to embrace the technology that our children see as a normal part of their lives. That for the majority of teachers and administrators, technology is viewed as “change” – and they don’t like change.

Just some light Google searching has turned up some interesting discussions on the impact of e-readers at the elementary school level: 

  • they provide a level of privacy for children who may be reading below the level of their classmates and are embarrassed for their classmates to see them reading lower level books.
  • they eliminate children being intimidated by the size/length of book suggested by the teacher because of its thickness
  • They relieve the backpack of weight of books and reduce the strain on young muscles and backs.

I’m not expecting the school system to provide my kid with the latest and greatest technology – but I do expect them to accept when I can provide it for my own kid. If she drops it or looses it, well that’s on me, not them.  She’s reading! Not texting or talking or disrupting class in anyway. So where is the harm?

From what I understand about the problem at this point (and I plan to continue to ask questions), DCPS seems to be lumping e-readers in with all hand-held electronics  -although that is not what the policy I have found controls – without regard to its actual function. A bit of throwing the baby out with the bath water, if you ask me.

I recently saw a video that quoted former Secretary of Education Richard Riley as saying that the Top 10 Jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004 and we’re currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist to use technology that hasn’t yet been invented. 

Just don’t expect to have them learn how to do it on an e-reader in Duval County …

 

 

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