Learning and Teaching at Gilson College

Learning for living, Character for life, Hope for the Future

eReader or Tablet Devices of iOS and Android Variety? Which do you recommend?


A colleague recently forwarded me the emailed query quoted below. It came from his colleague was seeking information about the value of introducing eReaders in his school for loading on textbooks and novels. I thought I’d share my response:

We are currently looking at the feasibility of issuing eReaders to all our students for all their required school textbooks and novels. I would like feedback from anyone how has already taken this path and maybe able to advise on any pitfalls and a reliable and cheap supplier of the eReader and the associated texts.

While eReaders have their place, I disagree with the purchase of eReaders merely as a storage for textbooks.
I also disagree with the premises stated in this gizmodo.com article that was referenced in one of the responses to the email writers query. I stand to be corrected but from the points argued in the article it is my opinion that the writer may not be an educator. I do agree however with responses given by the main ‘Comment’ writer , who I suggest writes from the point of view of an educator. The writer of the article quite unfairly I believe uses the commenters seeming preference for Apple devices to try to discredit the comments. While the commenter might prefer Apple products his/her arguments could equally apply to android as to apple devices, as such devices allow apps to be downloaded that are appropriate for pedagogical use.
To be frank, I’d never vote for the purchase of a device for education purposes such as an eReader, however cheap, if it is just being purchased to able to access textbooks or even novels in digital form. How is this different to having paper versions?  It is my opinion that this is false economy.
As well, while other devices, whether android or iOS are more expensive they allow for far more 21st century pedagogical variety and functionality, and all of those ‘smart’ devices allow access to free eReader apps such as iBooks, Kindle etc., which if absolutely necessary allows for digital textbook and novels upload.
To my mind this is much better economy, even if in the first instance fewer devices are able to be purchased.
I would argue too that the educational world is actually moving quickly towards Bring Your Own Device programs that alleviate initial and ongoing costs for multi-use devices e.g. purchase, insurance etc.
As well schools and educators often decry and ban the use of personal devices in schools, however I would argue that administrators and teachers really do need address the question of how they might work with their students to create a culture of trust to allow for the educational use of personal digital devices in schools rather than perpetuate the development of a culture of banning. I would ask, ‘Have you explored for example the value and use of twitter to connect, network and learn, messaging to survey, blogging to collaborate globally, podcasting to reflect, videoing to engage, wiki to collaboratively publish etc. etc.’ Personal digital devices ranging from smartphones of all varieties, iTouchs, iPods, Android and iOS tablets can all be utilised to carry out all of these tasks and more.
I would in fact argue that these days there is no need to use textbooks at all in a 21st century learning and teaching environment. We are entering the conceptual age, where inquiry, curiosity, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and reflective practice (by student as well as teachers) among other skills, are paramount for our students to develop for life-long learning. All of this in opposition to retaining 20th century, education-still-in-the-Industrial-Age focused pedagogy. Isn’t using an eReaders for textbooks merely transferring traditional methodology to new technology? Just transferring paper-based books into a digital form, with some interactivity added? Isn’t this just doing the same old  thing in a new way rather than a new thing in a new way?
Content, information, interactive or not, is abundant, even unlimited these days via the Internet. Better for teachers to consider, explore and implement the pedagogical changes needed for delivering 21st Century learning and teaching and then allow the students themselves to decide what tools they need to use to support their individual learning needs, than make the tool the focus of learning. The tool chosen may be the humble pencil or may indeed be a multifunctional digital device.
It is important to remember that 2012’s Year 12 students right down to our Preps have never been educated in the 20th Century; indeed those annually entering our schools now were all born in the 21st Century. Sobering thoughts I think for educators.
And here endeth my rant and rave.
What is your opinion? I’d be pleased to know.

Author: Sandra England

Learning & Teaching Coordinator F-12 at Gilson College, an Adventist Schools Victoria school. Twitter: @GCLandT or @sandy_e

5 thoughts on “eReader or Tablet Devices of iOS and Android Variety? Which do you recommend?

  1. To me the whole debate around technology is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. The issue has to remain grounded in teaching and learning. It’s not about the equipment. If we put the curriculum first, then design the instruction based on it, the equipment will follow as a natural consequence. In short we will select the right tools for the job if we do it that way.


    • Thanks for your comment Maurice. Hear, hear! We do put the cart before the horse when we debate the pros and cons of technology. Any form of technology – mobile device apps, laptop software, video cameras, etc. – should be regarded as a tool to get the learning task done, just as are pens, pencils, paper, notebooks.


  2. You make some very interesting points. My question is are the students that we have in our classes today ready for the responsibility of a BYOD environment. Perhaps we also need to address the responsible use of technology in classrooms. I find that as much as 70% of my students struggle to resist the temptation of time wasting activities if given too much freedom. Does that mean that the material that they are supposed to be concentrating on is boring for them and uninteresting…. perhaps. So do they need to learn the material…. I think so yes. Bring on the technology and new devices but also bring on the structure and guidance so that students can use it responsibly.


    • Thanks for your comment Phil. I agree with most of your points, especially that we need to work with our students in regard to developing their sense of responsible use of technology, but I would add, of any learning tool they have access to. On the other hand I think you are correct that issues might be occurring because students might be bored and unengaged. Consequently they take the opportunity to think about how they can use their device inappropriately. I would argue as well that this can occur whether or not the device is BYOD! My question then is: Does allowing students to bring their own device to use when they need a tool to complete a task really constitute giving them too much freedom? Or does ‘too much freedom’ arise from poor teacher planning? While it may be too simplistic an analogy, I would suggest that we don’t restrict students’ use of their stationery because they might doodle in their notebooks while we lecture from the front. (or do we, and if so why?) Planning for engaging learning experiences is the responsibility each teacher owes to their students, as is moving consistently among student groups fully engaging with them to develop and enhance their thinking and learning. So perhaps we need to explore the notion of responsibility for both students and teachers! 🙂


  3. As it is, far too much reliance is focused on the electrical energy plants to provide the source of power for these devices so if there is any failure all communication is lost for the time out period. Plan B skills must never be discarded under any circumstances, therefore both electronic and yesteryear’s practices / methods must go hand in hand in order to avoid any unforeseeable events.


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