Saturday, 17 November 2012

Sharing Apps

A couple of tweets have caught my interest recently because they linked to a great site for sharing apps.  So despite the fact I have a huge list of other things I'm meant to be doing I allowed myself a little play on

Being a librarian one thing that appeals to me about this way of sharing your apps is that you can tag them so they are easy to search.  So if someone is looking for maths apps then they can click on maths and away you go.   The set up is very, very easy.  You can paste in the URL to the app and everything is populated for you, even the picture.  I wanted to make mine a bit more personal with my own opinions about the apps so it took a little longer, but it still is the quickest way I've seen to make a personalised app list.

You are able to share the list and, all going well, you should be able to see my list as I embed it in this blog.  It is a work in progress but you will get the idea.  I like the fact that you can vote on the apps you like the best (please do!).

Monday, 22 October 2012

7 Steps to Creating a School Website

Image: 'untitled
Found on

Our new school website has just gone live.  Earlier this year I was asked to take over managing our website.  For anyone else embarking on a project like this, here is how I went about it:

1.  Research

I was lucky to be given time to research what makes a good website.  Here are some of the notes I made around good design features:
  • Clear organization, easy to navigate and use
    • Menu system that is clear and concise
  • Eye-catching, visual design
  • Contemporary
  • Easy to return to homepage
  • Need reason to return
    • Regularly updated pages
    • Student published work
    • Photos, videos, school events
  • Fast loading time
  • Cross browser compatibility, able to use on iPad
  • Dynamic news panels
  • Search feature
  • Make sure it is easy to edit content
  • Avoid:
    • Too much content, especially on home page
    • Not enough photos
    • Never updating
    • Lengthy pages
    • Comic sans font
    • Links that don’t work
A memorable quote I found was that a good website should be a "gateway to parental involvement".  I also visited the websites of other primary schools and evaluated what I liked and didn't like about their sites.  As we were considering changing website providers I noted who they were using for website management.  I also jotted down the type of content provided to make sure our site was comprehensive.

2.  Review current site

With the best practice information I gathered I thoroughly evaluated our current site.  My recommendations were as follows:

  • Reduce the amount of tabs so the menu system is clear and concise
  • Add a quick links section so frequently requested information is immediately accessible
  • Include a large slideshow of photos to add an eye-catching visual element
  • Add a search feature
  • Move some of the content elsewhere to streamline the look
Whole Site
  • Ensure the website can work on iPads 
  • Embed maps and video rather than link to them to increase visual appeal
  • Include more photos wherever possible
  • In order to provide a reason to return to the site include student published work and photos and videos of school events (and publicize them on our Facebook site)
  • Ensure that all our links work and all our pages have current information on them
  • Maintain a common style on every page (including font, layout and standard photo sizes)
  • Include short videos on how to help your child with reading, or explaining how we teach maths etc

3.  Compare website providers

I then compared the cost and service of a number of website providers.  At the top end of the scale the school website my principal admired was custom-built for over $10,000.  I talked to salespeople from our existing provider and another company called SpikeatSchool.  In the end I recommended switching to SpikeatSchool because the setup and hosting fees were considerably cheaper than our existing supplier.  The hosting fee was cheaper because our existing supplier gave us the option of sending them content to add to our site.  We didn't use this service so were paying for something we didn't need.  SpikeatSchool provided an obligation free trial and I found that the creation of content was very similar to our existing provider.  This meant that our principal, receptionist and PTA could add their content without too much difficulty.

4.  Create a template

The next step was to work on a look for the site.  I came up with some ideas and made a mock up on Publisher.  I sent this through to Brendon at SpikeatSchool, who got his designer to work on it.  What came back was a bit different to what I had sent through, but it had some lovely features I hadn't thought of.  With a bit of back and forth (I was adamant that our logo shouldn't cover any part of the slideshow), we settled on the current design.

5.  Swap over content

Luckily I was able to transfer over all the content from our existing site to the trial site, so that when we went live the website was fully functional.  This process was particularly time consuming as I evaluated all of the information I transferred over and made a register of anything that would need to be regularly updated.  This included things like staff mentioning how old their children were in their profiles, to uniform price lists and student house leaders.

6. Points to note

  • It will take a lot longer than you think to transfer over content, particularly if you help deploy a school set of iPads and organise a Book Week in-between.
  • Make sure your new website provider can do everything your existing one did.  A bit late in the day I discovered our mailing list would have to be managed by using a third-party provider.  The always helpful Brendon from SpikeatSchool recommended “Mailchimp”, which is a free mail manager.  I had to learn how to use it with a deadline looming and it would have been better to be aware of this from the start.
  • Check and double check information on your website.  It is embarrassing (and confusing for parents) if, for example, you put your personal phone number at the bottom of your school website(!).  Even if I did get it fixed before the principal noticed.
  • Be prepared to make changes where necessary once the site has gone live.  The increased traffic to your new site will mean increased scrutiny.  In my case I received feedback about material that was identical to that on the previous site.

7.  Encourage visitors

When the site launched we used our school Facebook page to announce it and link to it.

We have also used this new website as a good opportunity to revise the way we distribute our school newsletters.  Previously we emailed a link to the newsletter to some parents but the majority still received paper copies.  Now we have advised parents that because the school wants to “reduce, reuse and recycle” we will be emailing the link to the newsletter to all parents unless they contact the office or don’t have an email address.  The good thing about this is that not only does it save time and money but the link to the newsletter takes people to our home page and then they click on the “newsletter” tab from there.  This means that each family should visit our home page every week. 

To capture interest and create that “gateway to parental involvement” my aim is to make weekly updates to the news and photos on our home page.  I also want to feature and link to different parts of the website so parents know what content we have on our site.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Gamification - Book Clubs and MOOCs

Gamification is a relatively new term so I'll start with a definition - gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.  It is a way to bring the fun and motivating aspects of games to the real world.  As a librarian I'm interested in how gamification might work to motivate students to read more.

My first real introduction to gamification came via a blog I subscribe to called "The Adventures of Library Girl."  Jennifer LaGarde, the American librarian otherwise known as "Library Girl", joined up with fellow librarian Matthew Winner and launched a new blog called the "Level Up Book Club".  This book club now boasts a Twitter hashtag, Wiki, Tumblr, Live Binder and Diigo group.

Level up Book Club

The first book we read as part of the book club was "Reality is Broken" by Jane McGonigal.  What a fantastic book!  Easy to read and very inspiring.  Jane has also done a great TED talk about how gaming can make a better world.

We are about to read our fourth book on gamification and Jennifer and Matthew have applied their ideas about gamification to their book club to keep it fun and interesting.

So, on to the MOOC.  What is a MOOC you may ask (I certainly did!).  It is a Massive Open Online Course.  As a result of following some of the Level Up Book Club's more active members on Twitter I learnt about a MOOC that was starting on a website called Coursera.  Professor Kevin Werbach from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania was running a six week course about gamification.  I am one of over 71,000 people enrolled from 147 countries.  How cool is that?!  The course itself is one of the first on gamification in any form so I'm not surprised interest is high.

I was really keen to see how the course would work.  It involves watching a series of video lectures, completing quizzes and writing assignments.  At the end of the course you receive a certificate if you have achieved a grade of 70% or over. 

The assignments are graded by your peers.  If you submit an assignment then you are expected to grade five other assignments using a fairly basic rubric.  Here is a link to an interesting article about the problems associated with this.  I actually should be working on my first assignment now (I'm great with avoidance tactics!).  Twelve hours after the deadline I should receive some assignments to mark and I think it will be interesting to read what others have done.  The first assignment is only worth 5 points and is a maximum of 300 words so shouldn't be too taxing.

So far I am really enjoying the course.  How can you not like a lecturer who asks you to go away and play the first level of Plants vs Zombies?! (OK, I played two levels, my willpower was weak!).  I did wonder if I would be more likely to abandon the course if it became too demanding because I had not paid money to do it.  However, the high interest I have in the content of the course has ensured I am motivated to finish it.

I like the concept of gamification and am keen to see how I can apply it to my professional life.  Next week I am attending a National Library seminar about the summer reading slide.  I am hoping that gamification might be useful in keeping children reading over the summer.  But first I have an assignment to write...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

iPads - E-Learning Staff Meeting

Yesterday we held an e-learning staff meeting and went over some feedback that had been solicited from staff about how they were going with their iPads.  It has been ten weeks now since they were deployed.  There was a lot of very positive feedback and a few queries that were dealt with at the meeting.

Brian, our principal, showed everyone how to find eTAP, our student management system, on Safari and then save it onto their home screen.  He then made everyone's day by handing out $20 iTunes cards.

Several teachers had asked for more help sessions so we will run three more of these this term.  A good suggestion from the iPad feedback was to create a Google Doc for sharing ideas about what apps are working and what teachers are doing with them.  Andrea, our head of e-learning, has set this up and we spent a bit of time adding to it.

Andrea and I wanted to share a practical example of how to use some apps so we recreated a session we attended at the Mobile Devices in Classrooms conference earlier this year.  We asked the teachers to draw three scenes from a fairy tale and connect them to show a story. The apps we used were "Draw Free for iPad" and "Popplet Lite".  Here is the instruction sheet (although I couldn't add the pictures on the day as my mail wasn't working from my iPad so this is the better version).

The session went well.  The teachers did things like use the stickers and change the background in Draw Free, which we hadn't mentioned because we wanted to keep it simple.  Drawing three scenes was probably a bit ambitious due to the time constraints but it was good to see everyone having a go.

To finish the exercise Andrea asked everyone to get together in groups and come up with ideas about how the apps could be used in the classroom.  There was a great range from P.E. to Maori and everything in between.  Hopefully we will see some examples coming through on the shared Google Doc.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Facebook vs Blogger

Today I launched our library's Facebook page.  I have to confess that I'm not an avid Facebook user personally.  However, when I wanted a way to connect with our wider community to share book reviews, apps and library events, it was a clear winner.

Lots of libraries have blogs but the main problem with them is that not many people know how to use an RSS reader (well that's my opinion but I certainly get a lot of blank stares when I talk about Google Reader). This means that every time you post you need to make a big fuss to try and get people to read your work (like I will shortly with this post!).  Facebook, on the other hand, pushes your messages straight to your fans without them having to do anything except choose to "like" your page.

In order to get people to "like" my page I am shamelessly using a prize ($20 book voucher).  We have a school Facebook page so I will be promoting my page on there, and I've put a notice in our school newsletter too.  If you want to have a look at our library Facebook page, here it is.

I think another benefit is that Facebook posts are short and sweet and therefore people feel they can spare the time to read them.  A lengthier blog post requires a bit more commitment (well done for getting this far!).

I guess it's strange that I'm writing a blog about how much better Facebook is but I am talking specifically about reaching my audience of a school community.  In my professional capacity as a librarian and technology enthusiast you can see that my vote is for Blogger.

By the way, for the first time I have used one of my own photos in my posts (the one I'm using on our Facebook page).  I used an iPad app called Snapseed to add an effect called Grunge.  It was a lot of fun so expect to see more.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

iPad Deployment - Week Two

Our I.T. guy, Richard, has fixed our wi-fi network issues so we now don’t have to log back in with username and password after the iPads go to sleep.  Yay!

Drop-in iPad Meeting

We had another successful drop-in iPad meeting.  Four teachers turned up and they were a mixture of those who needed further help with the basics and those who had sped ahead and were asking difficult questions!  Either way I was really happy they chose to come.  Things we covered were:

  • Putting files into folders
  • Setting the orientation lock
  • Changing wi-fi settings (the fix to our log-on issues)
  • How to do updates
  • Finding apps in the App Store

All of these things were on our FAQ document but I know some people find the personal touch better.

I also showed one of the teachers the Show Me app and later emailed her this blog post from Jacqui Sharp which demonstrates what teachers can do with it.

The question of email came up.  We haven’t set up a class email for the iPads.  One idea was that teachers download the Google Search app and log in and out of their accounts when needed.  This could be cumbersome, I guess it depends on how often they will need to email.  Also, I have had issues with not being able to use Google Search to email the Book Creator app and I wonder if there may be problems with other apps too.  I see that you can hide your iPad mail account so this may be another way to handle mail.  I think the safest and easiest way may be to set up class emails.

Volume Purchase Program

I found out via twitter this week that the Volume Purchase Program is ‘coming soon’ to New Zealand.  I’m not sure what this will mean for us but in the meantime I guess we just have to keep going as we are.

Things We Need to Work On

  • We haven’t worked out why the videos we take won’t play on Apple TV.  I tried them out at home, and they worked fine, so the problem appears to be tied up with the network.
  • Can we access files on our network?  Some of the teachers at our drop-in meeting asked if they could access particular items from our network.  I am a fan of the Virtual Learning Network and have found a reference to the Files Connect app here, which sounds like it might fit the bill.  Another thing to bring up with Richard.
  • What is the best way to transfer photos?  Our head of e-learning and I tried the Bump app and I know that there is also a Photo Transfer app, Files Connect, emailing and Photo Stream.  I guess the only way to know is try a few and see if they meet our needs.
  • Richard is working on being able to print from the iPads and hopefully this will be in place soon.  He is using a program called Paper Cut.

I feel like my lack of knowledge was highlighted this week (in my defence I'm not an I.T. person, I'm a librarian who simply volunteered to help).  I’ve had an iPad since November but a lot of the things I need to know now are related to managing multiple iPads.  Richard comes in for four hours on Mondays so I have a barrage of questions for him and will keep on learning.  I am finding the new challenges exciting.

Welcome to Life

I love this video!  At less than 3 minutes it won't take long to have a look and tell me what you think.  I love the three tiers and also the reference to copyright.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Our Deployment of 90 iPads


I was involved with the technical support side of the deployment.  With advice from our principal I came up with a set of instructions for the teachers to follow to set up the iPads and add some restrictions.  I tested them on someone completely new to iPads and realised I needed to add a picture of the iPad to show where the buttons are, after all their position changes depending on how you pick it up.  I also added images of the Settings and App Store icons so they could easily be found.

iPad Party!

On Tuesday we had an iPad party for all of our teachers.  Our principal, a very enthusiastic iPad user, talked about why we were using iPads (engaging for our children, clear links to learning, flexible, portable, personalised and fun).

Each teacher (and me in the library) was given four iPads, an Apple TV and a $50 iTunes gift card.

We asked the teachers to bring their laptops to the iPad party so that they could verify their Apple IDs.  They set up all four iPads before loading any apps.  This was so they could download apps to one iPad and have them automatically download to the other three iPads (do this by going to Settings, Store, and swiping apps on).  There is a bit of a lag when this happens but it was successful.  It avoided the necessity of having to sync to iTunes, making the set up simpler. 

I know there is a lot of discussion about schools syncing multiple devices to one Apple ID.  We took comfort in this email posted by a NZ educator who confirmed the situation with an iTunes employee.

Challenges with the Set Up

There were a few hiccups – existing Apple IDs with forgotten passwords and incorrectly redeemed iTunes gift cards were the main problems.  It is disappointing that if you redeem the gift cards incorrectly it doesn't give an error message, instead it tries to get payment information from you when you want to purchase an app.  The key is to watch for a message advising the amount of money you have just added to your account, then you know you have done the process properly.

Extra Help

We held drop in sessions for the following two afternoons and will have one more this Wednesday.  Teachers were encouraged to take the iPads home to have a play and a substantial number of them were using the iPads the following day.  There was a positive buzz in the staffroom as teachers swapped notes.  This weekend some of the teacher aides have taken iPads home to have a look too.

We have created a frequently-asked questions Google doc where teachers can share iPad tips and have their questions answered.  Currently this has information on updating apps and software, app selection sites and keyboard tips.

Teacher Responsibilites

Each teacher is responsible for charging and looking after their iPads.  There is no centralised computer that they need to sync with.

Benefits of School-Wide Deployment

In my opinion the choice to deploy across the whole school at once was a good one.  Obviously we had the finances to be able to do so but what it has meant is that there are lots of ideas and discussions happening and everyone can join in.  The teachers are learning and supporting each other.  The allocation of individual iTunes gift cards means teachers have control over the apps on their iPads.  A list of suggested apps was given but the remainder of money is up to the teachers to spend.

I went to an iPad conference recently and watched as two teachers struggled to download a suggested app because they didn’t have the appropriate password.  This was very frustrating and demoralising for them and I’m glad we have avoided that.

Community Involvement

Back in early May we advised parents via newsletter that iPads would be coming to the classroom.  Another newsletter put out on Thursday talked about the iPad party and the introduction of iPads into classrooms. It also mentioned a deal that has been arranged with Noel Leeming for families who wish to use the same technology at home.  The apps that were selected were put on the school website for parents to see.  An expo that is planned for later this year was also described as a way to see the iPads in action.

Apple TVs

I’ve been busy setting up the Apple TVs and showing teachers how to use AirPlay (fortunately all the TVs bar one have HDMI slots).  The teachers are really happy that they can mirror their iPad to their TV without having to set up any cables like they do for their PCs.  This will be a great way for them to share book apps and also to explain to their class how to use particular apps.

Technical Issues

We had a wireless upgrade before the iPads were introduced.  The biggest problem is that the Wi-Fi network that was set up requires you to log back in every time the iPads go to sleep.  We have passed this on to our I.T. guru and hope to get it fixed soon.  We also want him to find out why the videos we record do not play on Apple TV.

Some issues we have managed to fix for ourselves:

  • AirPlay button is missing – this happens when the Wi-Fi isn’t connected
  • Some apps are greyed out so you can’t purchase them – this is because of the restrictions we set up.  The apps must have some content that is not suitable for children.

Overall I would say that it has been an excellent first week with the iPads.  I will keep you informed as we move forward.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Mobile Devices in Classrooms Conference

Last Thursday I attended an interesting conference in Albany entitled "Mobile Devices in Classrooms". Although the focus was on teachers using iPads I think that as a librarian it is important to see how technology is being used in classrooms and to think about how it can fit into the library.

A key point made in the conference was that technology doesn't replace anything.  It is a very motivating tool that can be used to teach the existing curriculum in an exciting and engaging way.

Another point was that if you are new to iPads you tend to start with apps for consuming, then move on to apps for creating.  I can see this in my own learning curve with the iPad.  I started by downloading apps that you read and "drill and skill" type apps.  I'm now looking at how I can use apps like iMovie, Book Creator and Comic Life.

My bullet-point notes on the workshops I attended can be found here.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

E-reading Trial - Further Developments

Last week I met with two of our senior management team to discuss our e-reading trial.  I had heard that we were looking to bring iPads into the school and given the benefits of the bigger screen we agreed to postpone the e-reading trial until they arrived (hopefully next term).  This makes sense but I must admit that I'm not a patient person and I hate having to wait!

Another topic we discussed was how to measure whether the iPads make a difference to students' reading.  While the studies I have seen so far have measured improvements in attitude the senior managers felt that we should also try to assess improvements in reading level.  They also questioned whether we are able to know what reading level the e-books are.  These are two areas I will be looking into.

More research
Thanks again to the library listserv another interesting article about e-reading was brought to my attention - Middle school boys who are reluctant readers value reading more after using e-readers.  I think an interesting point is that reluctant readers "liked other students not knowing their reading level or choice of book".  The ability of an e-reader to enable anonymity around book choice is something I hadn't considered but I can see how this would be important to struggling students whose books may look small and babyish compared to those of more able  students.

New technology for the library
The introduction of the new iPad and subsequent drop in price of the iPad2 meant that I was able to purchase an iPad2 for the library.  Combined with an Apple TV I am hoping teachers will take the opportunity to occasionally show an e-book on the TV during their library time.  I have loaded up several Dr Seuss apps and start tomorrow.  Yay!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Summer Holiday Reading

A little boy reads a big book with river by MyTudut, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  MyTudut 

Last year, for the first time, we continued lending over the term holidays.  When this was a success I contemplated the next step - lending over the summer holidays.  I read Summer Slump & Holiday Reading on the Services to Schools website.  Here is a quote from the site that surprised me: 

"One piece of NZ research in a Decile 1 school found that some students reading at below-average levels suffered a 5.8 month summer reading slide". 

In the recommended reading, Summer Reading Loss, was more interesting research:
The reading proficiency levels of students from lower income families declined over the summer months, while the reading proficiency levels of students from middle-income families improved modestly. In a single academic year, this decline resulted in an estimated three-month achievement gap between more advantaged and less advantaged students. Between grades 1 and 6, the potential cumulative impact of this achievement gap could compound to 1.5 years' worth of reading development lost in the summer months alone. (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse, 1996).

Now, I had heard about the summer slump but the figures in these reports really blew me away.  The importance of keeping our students' reading over the holidays was really driven home to me.  At the same time, management were concerned about potential book losses and we agreed to trial summer holiday lending with our two Year 4 classes.

How did it go?
Each student had to return a signed permission slip before they were able to borrow six books from the library (double their usual amount).  28 of the 55 Year 4 students borrowed a total of 158 books.  All books have been returned, with only one student requiring a follow up letter.  

Even though not all of our Year 4 students borrowed from our school library they did all read at least one book over the summer.  I'd like to think that the information about the summer slump sent to parents might have had an impact.  We will definitely be doing this again this year.

Summer reading research
I was surprised that almost half of our Year 4 students did not borrow from the school library over the summer holidays.  Only five were prevented by the school from borrowing due to outstanding invoices or overdue books.  What stopped the remaining students from borrowing?  I prepared a short survey and found that while a few simply forgot their permission slips the majority did not borrow books because they were going away for the holidays and their families didn't want to lose them.

When creating my survey I wanted to see whether those students who didn't borrow from our library were simply going to the public library instead.  In light of my earlier findings about families not wanting to borrow books when they were going on holiday I was not too surprised to find that less than half of our students visited the public library in the holidays.  However, I was astounded to find that only half of our students said that they, or their parents, belonged to the public library.

No way!  I realise that I'm a bit biased here but I just can't get my head around that.  A large amount of wonderful books are free to take home and our students, or more likely their parents, aren't taking advantage of that.  Why???  Please feel free to jump in here with comments because I can't think of any reasons.  

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Welcome to my blog

Summer by m.aquila, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License
  by  m.aquila 

This is my first post for my first blog.  I have some interesting projects happening in my library this year so I've decided to take the plunge.

E-Reading Trial
One of the projects I am most excited about is our e-reading trial.  A couple of weeks ago an article called e-Books engage me was posted on the SLANZA listserv.  It is about an Australian research study that gave reluctant readers in Year 5 and Year 6 e-books and found that "boys are more interested in reading fiction when it involves the use of technology".  It also suggests that "emerging tools such as e-readers can have a place in changing the behaviour of reluctant reader to becoming engaged leisure readers".

I forwarded the article to my principal, Brian, and asked if we could buy four Kindles.  I suggested that we conduct an e-reading trial with our target students (boys and girls) in Year 4 and Year 5.  Brian was very interested in the trial and asked me to price the Kindles.

The key point to note here is that we are not looking to lend e-books to students with e-readers, instead we will be providing e-readers to promote reading at school.

Further Research
At this point I have to confess that I wasn't sure I would get the green light for the project and hadn't done a lot of research about different e-readers and e-books.  The reason I had asked to buy Kindles specifically was because they were mentioned in the Australian study (along with iPod touches, which we already have in the school).

Thanks again to the SLANZA listserv I was aware of a fabulous wiki called NZeRT, the New Zealand eReader and eBook Taskforce.  I also had a look at information from the National Library.

Angela Soutar's checklist on the NZERT site (item 5) includes this article - Amazon Alters Rules for Kindles in School Libraries.  Basically while home users can share up to six Kindles on one account, and therefore buy one book and share it over six Kindles, libraries have to have separate accounts for each Kindle and therefore would have to buy separate books for each Kindle.     I approached Dick Smith to get a quote for four Kindles and at the same time they confirmed for me that the same rules apply in New Zealand.

When I forwarded the quote through to Brian I added the following thoughts about the Kindle:

  • It is only used for reading so there are no distractions with other apps on the device
  • It is lightweight
  • The battery lasts about a month before it needs recharging
  • It has a larger screen size than the iPod touch
  • Illustrations are in black and white
  • It uses a proprietary format so we can only download books from Amazon (however they are cheap and have a good range)
  • For the price you could almost get an ipod touch and be able to use more apps and view books in colour
  • You need to open a separate account for each of the Kindles
When Brian asked what I would recommend I chose to conduct the trial using our iPod touches.  I didn't discount the Kindles altogether (or any other brand of dedicated e-reader), but felt that it was worth seeing whether the students did need a bigger screen and no distractions from other apps before spending money. 

iPod touch 1.1.3 (main screen) by chrisdejabet, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  chrisdejabet 

Where to Next
I will be meeting with our Deputy Principal and Assistant Principal to come up with a plan about which students to target first and how we can reach as many as possible using the iPod touches available.  I also need to research the best places to purchase e-books from and learn how to download them onto the school's iPod touches.  I will keep you updated.  If you have any advice or suggestions please let me know.