EducationPop QuizTechnology

Pop Quiz: Paper is Dead

Hey there, Doubters! Just a quick one from me today I’m afraid. I wanted to go back to a topic that I (and some of my fellow writers) have touched upon previously; namely the use of personal electronic devices in the classroom. However, today I’m specificlaly interested in discussing e-readers.


Today I had one of my semi-regular “personal reading” sessions with one of my younger classes. Pupils are supposed to bring in books from home (or the school library) and read them in class. There are various quizzes and activities to be done after a pupil has finished a book, but the lessons are primarily there to essentially force the students to read something. Most of them manage to find something to bring in, and in fact several of them are already avid readers and so have no problems at all, but there’s always a sizeable minority who claim that they utterly hate reading and can’t possibly find anything at all that interests them.


This week I tried an experiment. After working out that literally every pupil in the class possesses a smartphone of some description, I set them a homework task of (with parental permission!) downloading a specific “free books” app. You might have seen the type; they usually consist of “classics” and other out-of-copyright titles. I told pupils that they would be allowed to use their phones (or Kindles, iPads, tablets, e-readers) instead of physical books during our reading period this week if they wanted to.


Today, every single pupil had something to read. Many of them still brought physical books, but all of the “reluctant readers” had their phones out and managed to read quietly for the period. I did a bit of surreptitious checking to make sure that they weren’t actually browsing the internet or playing Candy Crush or anything like that, but I needn’t have bothered.


It was truly surprising to see the difference that just reading from an electronic device made for some of these young people. They were quiet, focused and engrossed. I’ll definitely be continuing this experiment in future lessons.


Have any of you used e-readers or any description with your classes? Were the effects positive? Negative? Neutral?


Does your administration actually allow the use of such devices?


Do you use them in your own teaching or lesson planning? If so, how? Have you run into any difficulties?


The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (Eastern Time).


Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Previous post

Required Readings, 14 November 2013

Next post

The Atheist Academic: Muahahahahahaha!



Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.

1 Comment

  1. November 17, 2013 at 7:46 pm —

    I let my students use phones and e-readers for their outside reading assignments. It usually goes really well, and I talk up phone readers. Kids don’t have to plan ahead and bring their book to work or an after school activity, they can take ten or fifteen minutes of down time wherever they are to get some reading done. They also use their phones in class as dictionaries. The only thing I’m not yet comfortable with is note taking electronically. Many will do it in college, so I’d like to find a way for my students to get used to doing it productively, but the way my classroom is set up, I can’t move around behind them easily and I don’t think many of them have the self control to be using tablets or laptops without becoming distracted.

    One thing that I think does need to happen on a more widespread basis is allowing students to have their phones accessible during class and giving the. specific direction on using them productively. The reality is that most adults in business meetings and conferences have phones. and it’s fairly accepted that people may occasionally send or receive a text, check something, put in a calendar appointment, etc. I think an absolute ban on phones is unrealistic and not worthwhile. In my class, if my students have their phones close at hand, I don’t make a big deal about very occasional use when students are engaged and productive. It’s pretty easy to tell who is looking up a word or checking what time they work, and who is playing Temple Run or carrying on detailed text conversations.

Leave a reply