"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Technology meets the Classical Literature List

I'm currently composing a list of classical literature for my homeschool. I'm using a wide variety of sources, including the Accelerated Achievement curriculum CD, The Latin Centered Curriculum by Andrew Campbell, Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist, The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessi Wise, the curriculum lists from Ambleside as well as suggestions from Books to Build On by E.D. Hurst and book lists from Creation to Present: A Catholic World History Resource by Marsha Neill.   

What I am doing, really, is finding out what books are available for download for the Kindle.   We got one because one of our children has a vision difficulty.  The Kindle allows you to increase both the font size and line spacing on the screen.  It also has a text to speech option with a headphone jack.  Probably the best feature for me is the fact that you can move the cursor to ANY word on the screen and it brings up the definition from the built-in dictionary in the header or footer, allowing you to keep reading instead of having to put down the book to look up the words. 

The Kindle has been an object of contention lately because everyone is enjoying using it.  Really, I didn't think I would like it, but I, too, am one of the contenders.  My emerging reader is using it to look up words in the dictionary and have it read the definitions to her.  My super speller is having fun using the Kindle for word games like Word Smith or Word Up (like solitaire Scrabble).  My husband takes it with him to Adoration to read a book he has downloaded.  I am using it to keep up with my book club reading.  The Little Women book club books are all pre-1920, therefore public domain.  So, using the browser in the Kindle (new test feature), I can go to Project Gutenberg and download directly from the website to the Kindle.

I have some pros and cons for anyone considering a Kindle for their homeschool.

  • Reasonable cost at $139.  It's the cost of 10-20 books I would have normally bought in paperback, ones that are freely available already.
  • Very user friendly - my 7 year old figured it out in 5 minutes
  • Great for visually impaired individuals - text-to-speech and the ability to adjust font size and line spacing
  • Holds mp3's so if you like to listen to music while reading, you may do so
  • Very easy to organize books.  We have them organized by reader.  Each user has a book folder.  It uses real pointers, so that there is a pointer from each person's folder to the bookso multiple readers may have the book in their folder at the same time.
  • Web browser allows for easy download
  • Downloads a variety of content (mobi, mp3, doc, pdf) via the USB cable
  • Downloads a variety of content via users' kindle account (you email the file to your kindle account and the file is downloaded the next time the Kindle connects to a wireless network)
  • Kindle downloads are cheaper than the actual paper books and always backed up on your account online
  • The eInk technology is very readable in sunlight and I simply bought a clamp on book light for reading at night while nursing the baby.

  • It has a web browser, which can't be turned off or moderated (no content filtering allowed)
  • Can't download mp3's via the web
  • Haven't found a good protective cover that allows me to use the text keyboard easily.  We've resorted to just using a neoprene sleeve while not in use (and most of the time it's not in the sleeve).
  • You can't share books among Kindles.  Not a problem for us since we only have one but we may find it troublesome in the future.
  • .pdf files are hard to adjust to fit the screen.  All the content from Accelerated Achievement is .pdf, so I've had to download originals from Project Gutenberg to make them more accessible and easy to use.
  • If drop it, we're done for...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I will.  I am considering an iPad as well, since it is multi-functioning.  I have had Apple products in the past and found their "ease of use" almost condescending.  I come from a Unix, command-line world, folks.  I'm always suspicious of things that are "too easy".  Now, that being said, I am all for making things accessible for the kids.  I just don't want to have to port everything to Apple and I'm not a fan of mixed platforms.  When I was in the desktop support field (20 years ago), mixed platforms were my biggest nightmare.  But, I'm willing to give it a try since things have changed tremendously since then.


Anonymous said...

I think I found your blog from bearing, but in any case I'm inspired to comment on this post. I just got a basic nook for Christmas and I love it. I was very torn between the nook and kindle, but the option to download library books on the nook pushed me in that direction. My home library system doesn't have a great selection, but I've activated my card at all the metro systems and Hennepin County seems to have the best selection. I have a friend with an ipad and she likes it too, but she has found the backlighting to be hard on the eyes when she spends any length of time reading. I just saw on the Barnes and Nobles website that they have a children's book app for the ipad as well. Just an FYI!

RealMom4Life said...

My adult sister just got one because she's Dyslexic and increasing the spacing between the lines helps her tremendously.

You mentioned that you cannot download MP3 files to it. Does this mean you might know of a good site to download good MP3 file audiobooks?

And...thanks for all the ideas of places to look to for good reading material!

The Road Scholar said...

Real Mom - check out:
librivox.org Old books that are in the public domain are read by volunteer readers and uploaded there for free access.
http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/ is another site with free audio downloads.

hclib.org also will allow you to download audios with your library card. They just expire from use on your computer or mp3 player after a certain time.

Project Gutenberg also has many of the books available in audio format.

I can download mp3's via the USB, but not via the web.