The Kindle Fire for your school?

Soon but not quite yet

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Not long ago I wrote a post full of glee, a post full of promise and a post full of financial responsibility. I titled it The Kindle Fire – This is THE choice for schools right now. Heck I even called out Apple’s behemoths the iPad and the iPad2 and said the Kindle Fire is better than those for schools. To be clear, I haven’t even held a Kindle Fire yet and I know the reviews are so-so. Check out Engadget’s review and Gizmodo’s review (both sites are great sources by the way) to see the pros and cons and opinions of people far more qualified than myself.

However, I still feel that what it offers is still a great choice for schools looking to dive into the tablet craze. For the price ($200), you get an awful lot of power and flexibility that could a very useful learning tool in the classroom.

So why am I telling you DO NOT BUY THE AMAZON KINDLE FIRE YET. Read on past the break to get the fiery reason (yes that is a poorly used pun) you should wait.

You see there is a little hiccup that cannot be overlooked and must be taken into account before purchasing one (or a school set). There are no proxy settings on the Kindle Fire (or the new Nook Tablet for that matter). You might be asking yourself Why does that matter and what is a gosh darn proxy setting? A proxy is like a middle man between your school’s web browser and the Internet. It allows your school to help weed out dangerous or inappropriate websites to protect your students. In order to use it you must configure your computer, tablet, netbook, smart phone, etc. to properly communicate with it. Without access to these settings you cannot use that network to get online-period.

So if you cannot access the Kindle Fire’s proxy settings, you will not be able to configure your Fire(s) to use your school’s proxy. In other words there is no way to get online or use any apps that need an online connection. With the Kindle Fire unable to access the Internet it makes it . . . well pretty useless. I need to thank themarque who left this frustrated comment about the Kindle Fire who clued me in on this shortcoming. Did I mention he was frustrated?

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I was not aware of this missing feature (though I should have been) at the time I wrote the original post and while I still stand by my statements, I must advise you and others to hold off for a little while but here’s why you should still keep an eye on them. The Kindle Fire runs a version of the Android operating system. The version on the Kindle Fire obviously does not have proxy support, but the latest Android version does . . . and that is hopeful. I honestly believe it is just a matter of time before the Fire will have an update that will give us hard-working teachers access to them there proxy settings. Thus making the Kindle Fire a great tool for classrooms. The problem is, I’m not sure when that will happen. It could be in a few weeks, a few months, or even next year, but I am sure it will happen. When it does, I’ll let you know! In the meantime, stay strong themarque and I empathize with your frustrations.

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About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
This entry was posted in Opinion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Kindle Fire for your school?

  1. For our high school, we have purchased an IPAD2, Kindle Fire, an HTC tablet, and a nook. As the IT guy, I have been given some money from the Parent’s Assoc. to load some of our textbooks onto the devices to test them out with students. The problem of course is finding a company that will sell e-books that will work on these devices. So far haven’t had much luck with responses. Do you know where I can get a list of compatible textbooks for these devices?

  2. Hey guys….we too have done a load of research on this topic and are moving to a 1:1 initiative next school year at our high school. In the next month or so, we will be piloting the Kindle Fire with our freshman class….around 300 students and staff. In the fall, we will roll it out to grades 9-12.
    THE TECH STUFF
    The proxy isn’t an issue at all with our type of network. We use 802.1x PEAP, Mschapv2, authentication and encryption….works like a charm. Also, I would recommend a filtering solution such as M86 offers. It’s a device that attaches to your network with great filtering options. If your Active Directory is setup correctly, you can do things like allow Facebook and YouTube to staff but not students, or even alter it for specific groups and grade levels.
    No device is a “one size fits all”, that’s for sure. In fact, the iPad (my favorite) has two HUGE problems for use in schools. It costs too much and it can’t use Flash natively. It’s off the table for us before we even start! The Fire has some great features that deserve a look…..Wish us luck!
    Chris Andrews
    Technology Specialist
    Butler County ESC, OHIO

    • Chris,
      That sounds pretty exciting. Keep us informed on how that turns out next year with your freshmen. As for the technical stuff I’ll pass it onto Tony DePrato. We are located in Dubai and unfortunately the Kindle Fire is here but fairly expensive compared to the US price. We will be requiring our students to bring in their own laptop/device next year but we are far from your size. Our high school has around 500 students 9-12.

      As for the iPad when do you think HTML 5 will overtake Flash on the web? It seems like it is heading in that direction. At any rate good luck from my research rolling out a 1:1 initiative can be a very bumpy road the first year.

      Take care and drop by and let us know how it’s going.

      Patrick

    • Chris,
      Out of curiosity, why are you guys choosing to go with Kindles and not laptops? I can understand that price would be an issue, but what will you do when you need the extra computing power of a desktop or laptop. We are also considering 1:1 in our new tech plan, but haven’t made any decisions yet. I like the idea of having a tablet for all students and keeping mobile laptop carts for the big stuff. I don’t know if I will be able to convince the powers that be to think the way I do, but it’s worth a shot. My theory is that most of the computing is research/enrichment that can be done on tablets. Likewise, electronic texts are headed this way, so why not be ready for them. Would love to get your opinion on this–as well as Omar and Patrick’s.
      Josh Koch
      ICT Coordinator
      International Christian School, Hong Kong

      • Josh…There were a ton of factors going into the tablet vs. laptop for a 1:1 program. Cost, portability, battery life, the need for a standard keyboard, etc. We too are keeping mobile labs in the mix and will rely on our tablets to do the basic stuff at first….research and a smattering of Apps that teachers have chosen. We ended up choosing the Acer A200 as our tablet for the masses. After much research it turned out to be a good fit for our purposes. The big drawback for the Kindle is the Amazon store instead of the standard Market or Google Play store as it is called now. Unlike Amazon, the Google Play store doesn’t require a credit card or gift card to be registered for each device to buy Free Apps. This was huge when it came to parents buying in! What we wanted the device to do is be fully Google compatible with email and Apps and the Kindle Fire isn’t. We also wanted to keep the price down as much as possible. The Acer is a bit more expensive but it is still far below the cost of iPads. We bought 1150 of them for $338.00 each, free shipping. The Acer A200 also has a full size USB port which means normal flash drives and also USB keyboards can be used as well.

  3. Dave-o says:

    I was able to get my Kindle fire to access my schools network. I had to side load Opera, and then i was able to adjust the proxy setting and access the web just fine

    • Dave-o that is pretty exciting. In general how do you like the device? I’ve had a brief opportunity to mess around with one and it responded pretty well and it seemed to work all right but that was for ten whole minutes. What are your thoughts on it as an educational tablet?

    • Melika says:

      Can you elaborate a little on how you side loaded your school and adjusted the proxy settings?

  4. Pingback: The Kindle Fire – This is THE choice for schools right now | Technology in the Classroom

  5. Cheryl says:

    Just another note as to why not to get a Kindle, is the keyboard is missing the “backtick” or grave accent symbol. The symbol below the tilde on most standard keyboards. Again, not that big of a deal unless the wireless network you are accessing has a security password with this character in it, as does the one I was accessing. I called Amazon support and they confirmed that the Kindle Fire keyboard is missing this character. Unlike the IPAD where you can hold down the single quote and then you have the option to choose the grave accent symbol.

    • Cheryl, that is definitely something to consider but not a deal breaker in my book. It certainly would be a huge pain in the butt but passwords can be changed and keyboards (such as this one) can be and probably will be updated. It’s just a matter of time. Thanks for stopping by though and leaving a comment!

  6. Pingback: Podcast Episode 13 – November 30 | Technology in the Classroom

  7. Hi Patrick,
    Thanks for the post. I recently came across an article comparing the Fire to the iPad and the consensus was that the iPad is still far ahead. Perhaps when the proxy issue is resolved the Fire will be more of an option. I do like the fact that it is more durable than the fragile iPad, and the Chrome app store is impressive. Have you reviewed any other tablets like Acer or Asus? I would be interested in your opinion.
    Thanks,
    Josh

    • Josh,
      As always thanks for the comment. You ask some good questions. I’ve actually handled a Xoom for a little while but I hear the the Galaxy Tab is still the best Android tablet out there. What I’m really excited about are the Windows 8 tablets coming out in 2012. From everything I’ve seen, this operating system looks pretty awesome for tablets. What about you in HK? Has your school invested in any tablets?

      • We are currently in the process of updating our technology plan and it looks like tablets would be useful in our elementary classrooms. I was able to use a Galaxy Tab for a little while and am impressed with Android and the responsiveness of the machine. It’s hard not to love the iPad, though! For middle school and high school anything less than a laptop appears to be insufficient for student needs.

      • For middle and high school maybe consider the Asus Eee Transformer Prime. Check out the engadget review here. http://engt.co/tWyTbi. At any rate let me know what you guys decide upon. We’re also rethinking our technology plan as well. Right now we’re just doing high school and 8th grade, but with plans to extend all the way down to the 4th grade (if all goes well).

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