This article helps get a new school up-and-running with e-readers. There are various things to take care of if you want to use the e-readers effectively and for long periods. We will cover the various topics to help you do so.
Keep the e-reader safe, charged, and protect it. Otherwise you might not have a working kindle when you want to use it. Cases are provided to protect the e-reader. When not using the e-reader, please make sure the case is closed, and fastened if it includes a fastener.
The e-reader can often be charged using a solar charger that includes a small battery to store the power from the solar panel and that provides power over a USB connection. Alternatively use the mains USB charger where you have mains power. Sometimes you may need to travel to a suitable location if your school doesn’t have power available.
For Amazon Kindles, one of the benefits is being able to download and buy electronic materials from the Amazon store. First you need an Amazon account, and the Kindle needs to be registered to this account. An account, and the electronic materials, can be shared across several Kindles. The most common recommendation is up to 5 Kindles can share an account. Doing so keeps the costs down as each purchase can be shared across the various registered Kindles.
Any purchases need to be paid for, the most practical way at the moment is to use Amazon Gift Certificates. These also need to be paid for by somebody, and added to the relevant Amazon account for this school. When you spend money, for instance by buying an electronic copy of a newspaper or a book, the money is gone from the account, unless you decide to cancel the purchase within a few minutes. A purchase by one person affects the entire account, so any purchase needs to be carefully considered and done wisely, otherwise you waste the limited money in the account.
Trap: We have noticed several schools have bought irrelevant or inappropriate books during the pilot phase of the project. In some cases purchases have wasted much of the budget for that school and meant they were not able to buy more relevant books when they needed to. Please clearly explain to whoever uses the Kindle what sorts of books are suitable to purchase and read. Also encourage them to use the following practices for any book they are interested in reading, especially if the item costs money.
Amazon provides several facilities to help you manage your purchases wisely:
- You can ‘try a sample’ of a Kindle book. Please do so before you consider actually buying the book.
- You can add books and other items to a wish list, then ask others to review the wish list to decide which items to buy this time. Other items then remain on the wish list so we can consider paying for them later on.
There are many thousands of books that are free to download and read. These include many ‘classics’.
There needs to be a way to connect to the Amazon store, and to the Internet, from Amazon Kindles. The choices depend on the model of Kindle you have and what connection options it includes. Connection options are:
- WiFi (for the less expensive models)
- 3G (for old Kindle 2 devices)
- 3G + WiFi (for the more expensive Kindle Keyboard 3, Kindle Touch, Kindle Paperwhite, etc.)
You need a WiFi connection for WiFi Kindles to connect. There are several options, which include:
- Visiting a local Internet / Cyber cafe or another location where you are permitted to use their WiFi
- Installing and using a local WiFi router. In rural Kenya we currently use 3G WiFi routers from a company called Huawei. These accept a 3G SIM card, similar to the ones used in a mobile phone. The 3G SIM card needs credit on the account and it’s cheaper if the credit is used to pre-pay for Internet access, for instance for 100MB of data. Like your mobile phone account, when you use the service, it costs money. This means you need to check the balance for the SIM card occasionally and top-up the account if it is running low on Internet credit. In this article we assume you have someone who is able to configure and commission the 3G WiFi router.
Find ways to learn from each other in your school, and from nearby schools who also use a similar service. That way you will be able to use the e-readers more effectively, share recommendations on how to use them for teaching, and share recommendations on good electronic materials to download and use.