Considering deploying Kindle Fire mobile devices in your school setting? Be careful you don’t get burned. Of course, all these tablets are evolving, getting friendlier and friendlier to school settings–which usually involve top-down control.


Recently, one Texas colleague asked the following question:
Is anyone using Kindle Fires in the classroom? How are they using them in the classroom and what grade level, how are you deploying apps and what about viruses?

This garnered a few responses worth considering, such as this one from Greg Caldwell (Texas)

We looked into Kindle Fires and decided against them for the following reasons:
1) It is difficult to install 3rd party apps.2) You have to have a credit card on file even to download free apps. You are NOT prompted for a password when downloading apps. They are a “one-click” purchase. So, you have to have a credit card on file and one-click app downloads mean that students, teachers, or anyone else can download any app at any time and someone will be obligated to pay for it.3) There is no way to centrally manage them. Each individual device has to be touched to change anything.4) Dealing with Amazon’s customer service is like talking to a horse. They might understand a few things but get “off-script” and they can’t help you. Asking to speak with a supervisor or someone in the US does not help.5) Kindle Fires are designed to be a personal use item and do not play well a muli-user or enterprise environment.6) If you are looking for an e-reader, the low end Kindle works. If you looking for more, stay away from the Fire.7) One more thing I almost forgot, the Kindle Fire as well as other tablets will not handle Java. I don’t care what Steve Jobs said about Java dying, right now a LOT of the interactive content of online textbooks and other educational websites are Java-based and it will be several years before that changes.
For all the reasons cited above, as well as cost and other factors, we are staying with laptops. I can get a powerful laptop that will do everything students need to do with a full 3 year warranty for the cost of a low end IPad 3 or the “new IPad” or whatever it’s called.

as well as this one from Rusty Meyners (@rmeyners)….

I normally recommend against Kindle Fire for the simple reason that there are other more open Android alternatives that give more for the money, the best currently being the Lenovo IdeaPad A1.
1. Google Market (Play Store) Certified and no problem installing 3rd party apps.2. No credit card needed – only a Gmail or GAFE account.3. Multiple or group management is reasonable and getting better.4. Never had to call for Android or Google support – forums and wikis always suffice.5. Tablets are indeed a personal device, though Android has apps to adapt somewhat to multiple users.6. Any Android can be a Kindle reader except for the dedicated Kindle’s read-to-me feature.7. Not sure about Java but I don’t think any tablet fully replaces a laptop anyway. I do believe many Androids including the soon-coming 7″ Google tablet, easily out-feature Fire if a handier tablet form is called for.

Of course, my personal favorite is John Rice’s response (@edugamres):

It’s true the Kindle is a personal device and suffers from lack of enterprise management, sames as the iPad did when it came out. Apple has made improvements in this area and I think Amazon will too over time. 

While we haven’t used the Kindle in the classroom here, I bought Kindles for my kids at home and tackled some of these issues. First, I did not want a credit card tied to their accounts. Each Kindle has to be tied to an Amazon account (just like iTunes). For each kid, I set up a new Amazon account tied to their personal e-mail. 

I give my kids Amazon gift cards which they use to buy books or apps. But, one of the selling points of the Fire was the huge number of free apps and books on Amazon. To get those, you have to have “one click” activated. “One click” does not need a credit card, but it does need a physical address. Once I figured that out, it was easy to configure their Kindles so that they could download all the free stuff they wanted, and not have a credit card tied to their accounts.
So, for school purposes, A clean Kindle Fire with an active Amazon account that has no physical address entered, will not be able to download free apps or books, or any other apps or books. It occurs to me that this might be a good thing in some classroom situations. 

Also, a Kindle can be set up to be able to download free apps and books, but not be able to _buy_ apps and books that are not free. This also might be good for some classrooms or check-out scenarios.

Just like with the iPad, teachers and other users are figuring out work-arounds to get the device to do what they want it to do. One guy had the idea of setting up a trial (that is, fake) credit card number from PayPal, and using it as the credit card on his kid’s Kindle Fire. The kid can download free stuff, but pay items can’t be charged. That’s a different work-around than I took when setting up my kids’ Kindles, but it’s just as effective. 

Here’s details:
The same blogger found out about a child lock app that prevents accessing other apps on the device without a code number entered. So, that might be a classroom solution too. Read his comment section. The first comment was about a teacher running 5 Kindles in the classroom. The blogger notes that tying all the Kindles in the classroom to one account essentially syncs them in terms of apps or books available. 

It’s an exciting time in ed tech. Lots of new products are making their way into the classroom. The Kindle is still designed for reading and simple apps. The iPad is designed for video and higher end apps. The notebook is designed for multiple computing purposes. Each fills a role at competing price points, and each has value.

What do you think? Play with fire and you gonna get burned…or not?

Update: Consider the info shared by the National Federation of the Blind:

Baltimore, Maryland (September 29, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind commented today on the release of Amazon’s new Kindle Fire, which cannot be used by people who are blind.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Blind Americans have repeatedly asked Amazon to include accessibility for the blind in its Kindle product line.  The feasibility of including accessibility in similar products has been demonstrated.  The Department of Education and the Department of Justice have made it clear that Kindle devices cannot be purchased by educational institutions, libraries, and other entities covered by this country’s disability laws unless the devices are fully accessible.  Despite all this, Amazon has released a brand new Kindle device, the Kindle Fire, which cannot be used by people who are blind.  Enough!  We condemn this latest action by Amazon and reiterate that we will not tolerate technological discrimination.  The National Federation of the Blind seeks nothing less than equal access to all technology for blind people.  It is one of the most critical civil rights issues facing blind Americans in the twenty-first century, and we will do everything in our power to see that this right is secured.”

Thanks to @KarenJan for the NFB info!

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure