Last week I attended an information meeting about the Nook Color and saw a presentation on its potential in the classroom. I have to say I was very impressed. My evaluation notes are below:
The Nook Color is primarily marketed as an eReader: books are downloaded to your machine. For no cost, a representative at Barnes and Noble will manage the school account. If you want to purchase a new book, you won't be able to do it yourself (and neither will your students - which is a great safety feature). Instead the representative will handle the purchase and then push the ebook to the group of machines you want it installed on. You can "group" machines in any number bundles you want (unlike iPad that requires the bundle to be in groups of 10). So you can have 8 machines with one set of books, and another set of 6 with another set, if you wanted. This is an advantage for literature circles, where not everyone needs the same book at the same time.
One helpful feature of the eReader is the highlight and sharing capability. I downloaded Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, and started to read the prologue. I changed the backgrounds, text shape and size to make the reading experience more to my liking. Then, I read a sentence that included the phrase "dog days". This is something I wanted to save, so I used the highlight tool to highlight the sentence. Then I added a sticky note with a question: "What does dog days mean?" If I wanted to, I could choose to share this post on Twitter. Students could use this in the classroom to share with other classes during our Global Read Aloud project taking place in September. Then, I decided to use the link to look up the phrase "dog days". Three choices are presented for looking up words, a dictionary, Wikipedia, and Google. The downside is that it would not look up the two words together, it would only look up "dog" or "days" one word at a time, however it was easy to add the other word during the search. I came up with a great explanation of "dog days of summer" from Google. This feature would really benefit all kids as they learn new vocabulary.
The other feature that doesn't get enough mention is the Internet browser. Nook Color runs on an Android operating system which means that you can view flash files and movies! I had no problem visiting websites like www.wix.com that utilize flash. I was able to view any website I can view on my own computer from this mobile device. The only criticism I had was that it was hard to locate and use the BACK button. It was hard to maneuver backwards if opened a link or webpage I didn't want by mistake. I eventually figured it out, though. I also checked to see if I would be able to view our online math textbook. It took about 30 seconds to download, (which I think is a lot) but once it did I could view the workbook and textbook pages as pdf files.
The Nook Color is also a storage device. I learned that you can connect the Nook Color to your computer and save word documents, pdf files, and powerpoint presentations to it just as you would for a portable USB drive. This would be great if I wanted the students to complete a worksheet or graphic organizer for Tuck Everlasting. I would not have to make copies to distribute anymore which is great for those who are interested in going "paperless". This would take time though, because each device would need to be connected to the main computer one at a time. There is a lot of potential here if I could figure out how to have the students write directly on the template, and then save their work or email it to me. There is likely a way to do it but I would have to research it further to see if an app like that exists. At the very least, you can view and edit shared Google docs.
This brings me to the app store. There are about 240 "education" apps that can be downloaded. Again the purchasing and pushing of these apps to the machine would be done by Barnes and Noble (you can do it yourself, but for free, why not have them do it right?). There was a good drawing app that turns your Nook Color into a portable slate, flashcards, games, and an app for publishing student books. I did not do much research into the apps. But to me, this was a bonus feature, not something I really woudl purchase a Nook for. If you want apps, you go iPad...
Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised with the Nook Color. I think it is an excellent alternative for schools who are looking to expand their digital library, go paperless, and have portable internet access. The low cost of $250 makes it a realistic alternative to other devices.