Dixie Darr

Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

In Learning Tools on November 29, 2008 at 3:59 pm

The Perfect Use for a Kindle


At the University of Phoenix, we use electronic textbooks almost exclusively, many of them delivered in PDF format. Although they save the students quite a bit of money, most of them would prefer to buy an actual book. They’re portable, easy to read, and familiar.

I admit that I usually find a used copy of the textbook online and buy it, so I won’t have to rely solely on the electronic version. Because I teach the same class many times, it’s worth it to me.

According to my students, all the other colleges they have attended still use books, so UOP is apparently ahead of the curve in the use of ebooks. As we were discussing the relative merits of paper versus digital formats, it occurred to me that the Kindle could solve most of the issues. It’s small, lightweight, and portable like a book. It creates a library of books for students to access at will and is available wherever they go, without computer and internet access. The small page-sized screen and adjustable font size is easier on the eyes than a computer monitor.

Of course, the lower cost of Kindle books would be a major attraction in these days of skyrocketing education costs.

If Jeff Bezos isn’t pursuing this market, he needs to get crackin’. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Engadget also touts the potential of Kindle as a textbook substitute. A few top universities—Yale, Oxford, Berkeley and Princeton—are beginning to offer textbooks on Kindle.

Rumors abound that a student version of the reader with a larger screen is due out after the first of the year.

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In Learning on November 26, 2008 at 11:04 am

Subjects I Wish I’d Taken in College

I’ve told the story before about how I found my best friend, Chris, from high school after 36 years. Since we’ve been back in touch, we are frequently amazed at how much we still have in common. We are both readers, writers, and teachers. We both like cats.

When she and her husband, Peter, were in town this fall, she asked me an intriguing question. Was there anything I wished I’d studied in college instead of what I had? “Not instead of,” I replied, “but in addition to. I want to learn everything.” She grinned and looked meaningfully at Peter, as if to say, “See? That’s why we’re friends.”

Here’s a partial list of subjects I wish I’d taken in college:

§ Economics

§ Calculus

§ Physics

§ Marketing

§ Public Speaking

§ Graphic Design

§ Geography

§ Comparative Religion

Of course, the question seems to assume that it is all over, that we will just have to finish our lives without knowing much about these topics. Not true. I may still go back to school and take that economics course, or I may get some books and study it on my own. It’s never too late for learning.

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In Learning Tools on November 24, 2008 at 9:42 am

Favorite Things

When Oprah announced that the Amazon Kindle was her new favorite thing and offered a $50 discount, I was tempted to get one. After all, my Indian name is Nose in a Book. I read an average of ten books a month and keep a book diary. I’m also internet savvy and long ago ran out of room to store books in my house. In short, I’m exactly the sort of person Kindle was designed for.

And yet, I resisted.

A few months earlier, my friend Kathy showed me the Kindle she had gotten for her birthday. Just a few weeks after that, Chris, my best friend from high school, was in town and whipped her new Kindle out of her bag. They both loved their new toys. Some of their favorite features were the built-in dictionary that allows you to look up any unfamiliar words immediately, the adjustable text size, and the ability to download new books, magazines and newsletters through the Kindle’s wireless connection. Amazon automatically backs up each book online in case you need to download it again. No more lost books.

All these features appealed to me, too, but still, I haven’t bought one.

My problem is that I’m hooked on the library. Years ago, when I ran out of bookshelf space to house my lifelong addiction to books, I discovered that I could get just about any book I wanted from the library. I look it up and order it online and, a few days later, pick it up at my local branch library. Now, I can even download ebooks and audio ebooks directly to my computer without making a trip to the library. I love the internet.

Also, at $9.95 or less, Kindle books cost much less than traditional books, but that is still quite a bit more than free. So, here’s the deal: when the library starts offering books in Kindle format, I’ll buy one. Until then, I’ll probably keep resisting.

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