Lunch & Learn: “e-Readers in the Classroom?” with Janet Temos, Stan Katz, Dan Kurtzer, and Trevor Dawes

Student with a Kindle

In the Fall term of 2009, Princeton conducted a pilot sponsored by the High Meadows Foundation, the University Library, and the Office of Information Technology, to assess the use of e-readers in the classroom. The reader used was the Amazon Kindle DX, a lightweight, portable e-reader with the capacity to hold approximately 3500 books, in three University courses.

The project aimed to explore the use of the e-readers in classes for which e-reserves were the primary readings. The printing of e-reserve readings at Princeton accounts for a large portion of printing in public clusters (total of 10 million sheets of paper last year). The e-reader pilot sought to target e-reserve readings and present them on an e-reader to see if printing could be reduced.

The pilot participants consisted of three faculty members, 51 students, and several administrators in the Library and the Office of Information Technology.

The three courses in the pilot involved considerable eReserve reading, all had some content in the Kindle store, and they had to be of a size that would permit the involvement of three courses. The courses in the pilot were Civil Society and Public Policy (Professor Stanley Katz, an undergraduate seminar), U.S. Policy in the Middle East (Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, a graduate seminar), and Religion and Magic in Ancient Rome (Professor Harriet Flower, a graduate seminar).

Devices were given to students in September. The pilot was voluntary with opt-out possibilities at any time. One student opted out at the start of the pilot. No student opted out after the pilot began. Students were asked to do the bulk of the course reading on the Kindle. 95% of the students reported that they had not previously used an eReader.

Participants were asked to do pilot course readings on the e-reader without printing as much as they felt it was possible. The pilot concluded with a survey and some final focus groups in February 2010.

The survey results are available at at the e-reader project web site and in the presentation slides.

The goals of the pilot were to reduce the desire to print, to explore the unique strengths of eReaders, all while being careful not to affect adversely the classroom experience.

At the April 14 Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, Janet Temos, Director of OIT’s Educational Technologies Center, Stan Katz and Dan Kurtzer two of the faculty involved in the pilot, and Trevor Dawes, Circulation Director at the University Library reviewed the findings of the Princeton e-reader pilot and shared their experiences.

Temos reported that the pilot did indeed reduce students’ desire to print.

Students judged the screen size, image resolution, device weight and storage capacity to be excellent. Highlighting, annotating, navigating within and between books, and the dictionary features achieved much less positive evaluations. Overall, Temos reported, the students thought that the devices had promise, the reason they said at the end that none opted out.

Kurtzer noted that, in his graduate seminar, all of the students were expected to read the course material before coming to class. And so, while they may have experienced some challenges with navigation, those did not occur in class. He reported that all of the students liked the fact that they could carry all of their reading around all of the time.

Many of Kurtzer’s students have recently downloaded material from current classes to maintain the experience. Main criticisms included highlighting, keeping track of bookmark references, and moving between and among passages from different books.

One problem that the pilot addressed was the difficulty of working with pdf documents because you can’t enlarge the type size. The only surprise in the data, reported Kurtzer, was that the pilot appears only to cut down 50% of the students’ printing.

Use of the Library’s eReserve system has grown exponentially, Dawes commented. The pilot provided a good opportunity to test the use of the eReserves system on an eReader platform. For this project, the processing was different in that it was required to scan the pages individually, trimmed, and processed further by OIT staff. Early on, we discovered that the Kindle could not read pdf documents in their native format. The amount of staff time involved was large and, he concluded, would not be sustainable for the device. We will continue to monitor progress to see if new devices will be able to accommodate pdf’s more efficiently.

Professor Katz’s course involved 23 books. He emphasized that the device is superbly ideal to accompany travel, and he and students agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. That said, it was wholly inappropriate for the close textual work involved in the course.

Classroom discussion required that all students be looking at the same passages, and they were expected to annotate those passages. Annotations collapse into footnotes, the keyboard is tough to use, and the Kindle had built-in limits on the amount of text that could be highlighted and annotated. The tedious nature of finding passages caused consistent classroom confusion. All that said, he is off to San Francisco for a dissertation review. “I will load it into the Kindle, said Katz, “and love it once again.”

KindleTemos.jpgJanet Temos was trained as an architectural historian, and received degrees in art history from Williams College (MA 1992), and Princeton University (PhD 2001). She began working with the Educational Technologies Center (ETC), in 1993, and became a full-time member of the staff in 2000. She is now director of ETC, and continues to work with faculty who wish to use computer technology in their teaching. Current projects include courses on film, archaeology, medieval manuscripts, African languages taught in the US, and a collaborative project with the Princeton University Art Museum to develop an on-line repository of digital images of objects in the museum’s East Asian collection.

KindleKurtzer.jpgDaniel C. Kurtzer retired from the U.S. Foreign Service with the rank of Career-Minister. From 2001-2005 he served as the United States Ambassador to Israel and from 1997-2001 as the United States Ambassador to Egypt. He served as a political officer at the American embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv, Deputy Director of the Office of Egyptian Affairs, speechwriter on the Policy Planning Staff, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. Kurtzer was a member of the American delegation to the Israel-Palestinian autonomy negotiations (1979-1982), helped negotiate the creation of the Multinational Force and Observers (1981-1982), negotiated and oversaw the successful arbitration of the Taba border dispute between Israel and Egypt, crafted the 1988 peace initiative of Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and in 1991 served as a member of the U.S. peace team that brought about the Madrid Peace Conference. Subsequently, he served as coordinator of the multilateral peace negotiations and as the U.S. Representative in the Multilateral Refugee Working Group. Kurtzer received several of the U.S. Government’s most prestigious awards, including the President’s Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State Distinguished Service Award, the National Intelligence Community’s Award for Achievement, and the Director General of the Foreign Service Award for Political Reporting. Ph.D. Columbia University.

KindleKatz.jpgStanley Katz is president emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies. His recent research focuses upon the relationship of civil society and constitutionalism to democracy, and upon the relationship of the United States to the international human rights regime. He is also a commentator on higher education policy. Formerly Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor of the History of American Law and Liberty at Princeton University, Katz is a scholar of American legal and constitutional history, and on philanthropy and non-profit institutions. He is the editor of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States and of the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Legal History (OUP, 2009). The author and editor of numerous books and articles, he has served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Society for Legal History and as vice president of the Research Division of the American Historical Association. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Newberry Library, the Copyright Clearance Center and numerous other institutions. He is a commissioner of the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. He also currently serves as chair of the American Council of Learned Societies/Social Science Research Council Working Group on Cuba. Katz is a member of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, the American Philosophical Society; a fellow of the American Society for Legal History, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Society of American Historians; a corresponding member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and an academico correspondiente of the Cuban Academy of Sciences. He has honorary degrees from several universities. Ph.D. Harvard University. Katz is director of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies.

KindleDawes.jpgTrevor A. Dawes is the Circulation Services Director at the Princeton University Library, where he is responsible for the circulation, reserve, current periodicals, stack, remote storage and Borrow Direct operations in the library. He previously held several positions at the Columbia University Libraries. Mr. Dawes earned his MLS from Rutgers University’s School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies, and has two additional Masters Degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is an active member of the American Library Association and the Association of College and Research Libraries.

The podcast and presentation are available.

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