I have often read how we learn the meaning of words when reading though context, and that is a great thing. But often the new word's context can not even be understood or I often feel that language drift has cause the speaking and writing patterns to change over time that the words used and their meanings may have changed. Yes, of course we should look things up in the dictionary to find out what that new word means, but perhaps we are right in the middle of an exciting passage and we just don't want to stop right now, or we don't have a dictionary with us (or there just isn't a dictionary around right now - if you look in the modern office you will most likely not find one). I feel that a big part of the regular dictionary use is the actual process that occurs in the room while reading: you read the new word, now you have to stop reading, remember the word, walk across the room, look up the word, read the defined word, remember all the definitions, go back to the desk, find where reading stopped, look again at the sentence, remember the definitions, figure out which meaning was used, continue reading [and don't forget about all the other distractions in a classroom that can attract attention during this process] - all that takes a lot of time [so short term memory can have issues with remembering all that]. Instead with the ebook, all you have to do is select the word, then choose the option for the definition, see the definitions, all quickly and without leaving your desk. Even in my own ebook use I have noticed that I will often look up words in the novel that I'm reading, while in a paper copy I just don't and move on, yes I can usually determine the context from the content, but with an interactive dictionary I do more, sometime even when I can understand it, I'll still look it up, having fun exploring the language for a moment.
The ebook or e-reader here can help so much with such language exercises. For this school I would expect that the language that Washington Irving used would be difficult for such children to relate to, because of the language drift over time, and that while there may be a number of words that they know they may be used in a different way that they students are used to. Having the ebook with the interactive dictionary (and more) then just gives the students easier and quicker tools, and if something is easy enough and doesn't take much time, they may be that much more likely to use it. I know that I have seen this same effect occurring with the students that I have taught.
Grade school touts benefits of Kindle e-readers
An Illinois grade school is using Kindle e-readers to help encourage students of all levels to get excited about reading. The devices' dictionary feature has allowed students in fifth and sixth grade to better understand Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle," and the highlighting feature is being used to help kindergarten students sound out new words. Each device can hold up to 3,500 titles, a feature that educators say helps make up for their school's lack of sufficient library space. News-Tribune (La Salle, Ill.) (3/5/2011)