Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ebooks in Developing Countries

As technology has advanced, new ways of viewing literacy has increased. With the increase in use of e-readers and e-books, adults and children around the world have found an easier way to access, transport, and interact with literature; especially within the classroom.

Used as textbooks for classes, children's literature for individual reading, or group reading through digital readers (Kindle, Nook color) or tablets (iPad), or whole classroom instruction through the whiteboard, text on a screen can become motivating and interactive. E-books have the ability to save space and money, as well as allow students to interact with text--highlighting the text, look up unknown words in digital dictionary, listen to text, or write a note connected to the text.

For myself, the most valued characteristics of e-books are the portability and the accessibility. As a hearing itinerant teacher, I am a mobile teacher. I must transport my materials for each of my students from school to school. The ability to have multiple books on hand saves me time and energy. While the cost upfront for an e-reader may be high, as more books (including textbooks) are available and as libraries (and Amazon) begin e-lending, the overall savings between print and digital may be very significant. The potential for e-books to become a staple in the classroom is increasing, including in the developing world.

Worldreader has begun a campaign to provide "books for all." The simple solution of access is transforming the education of students in Ghana. Where there was little access to books, especially textbooks, Worldreader is providing an avenue easily attain not only texts from around the world, but working with local organizations to provide digital copies of culturally relevant material.

Just as cell phones have transformed the landscape of accessibility in Africa, so too can e-books and e-readers. What will remain to be seen are the results of such accessibility. Will the e-readers take root in the educational systems in developing countries? How will these e-readers transform pedagogy in developing countries? Will educational outcomes improve because of e-readers? And will the digital divide be lessened if organizations like Worldreader have the ability to extend their reach?

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