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Amazon Dips its Toes into the Educational Pool

Kindle Fire use in the classroom [1]By Caroline Ross

It may be called Whispercast [2], but the shiny new organizational tool from Amazon may just have the potential to make school districts and teachers shout from the rooftops with joy.

Okay, that last statement was a bit of hyperbole.

But if Amazon’s Whispercast has managed to solve the issues some school board members have with the iPad, then the Kindle (not the iPad) may end up dominating U.S. classrooms.

In a nutshell, Whispercast is a free, Kindle-compatible system that was designed specifically with instructors and business professionals in mind. The concept is rather simple: it allows a central user (an employer or teacher, say) to manage and distribute content to a network of other Kindles—a classroom of students, for instance, or an office of employees. The central user has the power to not only mass distribute content such as textbooks and other educational e-materials, but also to control which Kindle features can and cannot be accessed, such as the Internet.

That said, Whispercast has the potential to make Amazon’s Kindle Fire the leading tablet in the classroom. And here’s why:

Kindle Fire use in the classroom [3]It Provides More Security

While iPads definitely shine in the higher educational realm, especially with apps like iBooks 2 [4] and iTunes U [5], some school districts still worry that they doesn’t provide enough extended security or filter features, both of which are extremely important when dealing with younger students.

If students are allowed to use iPads in the classroom and can take them home, there’s no way to prevent them from playing Internet games and looking at productivity-killing sites like Facebook and Twitter. With the help of Whispercast, on the other hand, a central user can eliminate potential Internet dangers so that the Kindle can act as better educational tool.

It’s Cheaper

Even with school district discounts and the release of the iPad mini (which sells at a lower price than that of the original iPad), Apple’s devices are just too expensive for some school districts to adopt, especially for those with evaporating budgets.

The $159 Kindle Fire [6], on the other hand, is a cheaper option and won’t necessarily break the bank if it gets lost, stolen, or broken while in the possession of a student.  In fact, some schools—like Clearwater High School [7] in Clearwater, Fla.—have already adopted Kindles in the classroom since they feel it’s the more economical choice.

It’s Lighter

Lastly, while the iPad 2 is a lot thinner than the first model, the Kindle Fire is still a lot smaller than the standard iPad, and thus it’ll be easier to carry in backpacks. Not to mention that the Kindle Fire is more user-friendly for younger students who tend to have smaller hands and fingers.

Do you think Amazon stands a chance of dominating the classroom, or will Apple always reign supreme?

 Caroline Ross [8] is a freelance education writer and a former teacher. She welcomes your questions and comments. 

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1 Comment (Open | Close)

1 Comment To "Amazon Dips its Toes into the Educational Pool"

#1 Comment By Frank Lowney On November 14, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

Apparently, we’re talking K-12 or maybe K-6 (from the pictures) but not higher education. So why is Wispercast so compelling? After years of network installations funded by special taxes on telephony, most K-12 schools not only have Internet access but they have highly filtered Internet access that varies by school system in accord with “local standards.” Adding WiFi to that if it isn’t already present leverages that investment instead of abandoning it.
As for distractions, students already have plenty that we are powerless to change. One of the key objectives of schooling in the digital age is or should be learning how to focus. You know, keep your eyes on the prize. Even if we could protect students from distractions, what happens when they leave school every day? Or when they graduate? Of course we cannot so the best that we can do is help them learn how to deal with it.