But they are actually learning. The class of almost 30 students is quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
“Right now they’re looking for examples of compound and complex sentences,” Collins said. “Once they find them, they write them down and turn them in. When they have the freedom to read what they like, they retain the material much better.”
Collins said the students also use the Kindles to research topics and current events. For instance, earlier in the week, students were assigned to research a number of Christmas facts and organize their findings into a presentation for the class.
“The kids are sorting through information, determining what is useful and relevant and what is not, then taking their new knowledge and using it for something. It’s much more interactive than me standing at the board and lecturing them,” she said.
This sort of autonomy in learning will do well to help students prepare for the impending Common Core curriculum standards, said Baldwyn Middle School Principal Danny Ramsey.
“They are learning to research with a purpose and back up their facts, which is the kind of learning Common Core expects,” he said.
Student Allie Leslie said the Kindle has made her better at finding solutions to problems on her own.
“If we go over a topic that I don’t understand, I can look it up,” she said. “It gives a lot of detail and helps us visualize whatever its talking about.”
Leslie’s classmate Connor Hendrix enjoys the range of topics the Kindle provides.
“Last year, we could only read out of books in the room, but it helps to look up something you actually want to read about,” he said.
At the moment, Collins only has a classroom set of the gadgets at her disposal, but that has made her students appreciate the Kindles more.
“They know if they drop it or forget to put it back in its box, they won’t get to use it anymore, so they are very careful,” she said.
After years of fighting the tide of cellphones and other tech gear in the classroom, Collins said meeting the children’s educational needs with technology makes knowledge and achievement more accessible. Her class’ generation is, after all, one that has never known a world without the Internet.
Ramsey said it has affected everything from their eagerness to learn to their behavior.
“When she introduced the Kindles, discipline issues cut in half,” he said. “The level of kids’ engagement with these devices is clearly a step in the right direction for educating our children. With the Kindles, so much more information is available to them.”
The Kindles were provided by Title-1 federal funding the school received at the end of last year. Ramsey said the school plans to invest in 75 more devices when it receives this year’s Title-1 money.