English 30 reflections post #2

We spent today in the library, where my students checked out their Sony e-book Readers for the term and were “orientated” to them. Largely uneventful, but my students are already asking questions about the functionality of the device. One student asked if he could write notes or highlight using the Reader. Nope, not with this version. Which led to a great opportunity to stress that they are researchers in this project, so take note of what this does and doesn’t do, how it enhances, limits, or changes your reading and reading habits, and what you’d like it to do.

I read on the Chronicle that Northwest Missouri State is part of a similar project with Sony. Results? Mixed. An excerpt:

Students were initially fascinated with their readers, said Dean L. Hubbard, the university’s president, but they soon became frustrated with the devices’ limited interactivity capabilities — which made it impossible to highlight passages, cut and paste text, or participate in interactive quizzes.

“This is a tremendous attention getter; it’s not as good an attention holder,” said Mr. Hubbard of the Sony Reader. But Mr. Hubbard added that he thinks similar devices will be extremely popular in the long run, once their features have improved.

I like how Hubbard frames the device as an attention grabber, but not an attention holder. In fact, the device’s lack of functionality has led me to pay less attention to it. It goes days in my backpack untouched, except to move it out of the way to pull out a book.

My students are reading the first few chapters of The Whale and the Reactor by Langdon Winner this week and next, on the Reader. It’s not in ebook format — instead, it’s a pdf, so there’s even more limited interactivity with the text (you can’t even zoom in and out with this one!).

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