The Association for Educational Communications and Technologies defines educational technology as “[…] the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Januszewski et al. 2008). While mostly straightforward, this definition begs the question of what processes and resources are deemed “appropriate”, who determines them as such, and what is the process for doing so? The “who” seems easy enough–according to ISTE coaching standard 3 it is the role of the technology coach to “select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning”. Additionally, coaches should create collaborative spaces for teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources (2016). So, if it is the role of the technology coach to facilitate tool selection, how is this done?
The “how” was much more tricky to answer. I know that technology coaches in my district share digital tools amongst one another and with staff, but I don’t know that there is much of a process besides, “I found this cool, maybe you would too?” I’m sure many educators have come up with mental checklists for what they do and don’t want in a tool, but I have never been in a scenario where that was openly discussed. In considering this, I choose to explore the question “What frameworks and tools are available to educators to select and evaluate digital tools?” My ultimate intention is to start a conversation within my district on our process for selecting and evaluating tools. To support this, I have compiled some of the main points I have come across in hopes of creating a foundation to start this conversation.
In the rapidly growing atmosphere of digital learning, it can be extremely difficult to know where to begin when looking for a digital tool. As is outlined in my Coggle mind map, one great place to start may be a website, such as the EdSurge Product Index or Common Sense Education. These sites offer reviews of digital tools by educators and allow users to sort the tools based on subject, standard, platform, and cost, among several other factors. With or without a specific tool in mind, a few ideas to consider are to…
- Start with the end in mind. What standards are you hoping to address? What do you want the learners to produce? Does the tool help you reach the intended outcome for the lesson or activity?
- Ensure all learners have access to the technology. Do all students have access to devices? What tools work well on those devices? Will students need access to the internet at school? At home?
- Check your district’s technology policies. What tools are aligned with your districts’ policies? Does your district already subscribe to tools perform the given task? Are there restrictions on which tools you can use?
- Keep in mind learners that need accommodations and modifications. What digital tools will help you better address students who need accommodations and modifications? Will the tool be valuable for these learners, or will it present new challenges?
- Make a Checklist. While you may have heard about a really cool tool on social media or from a colleague, don’t forget that you need to choose one that works for you. It is all too easy to try to force use of a tool because it is exciting, only to realize later that it was not appropriate for the task at hand. It may be useful to make a checklist of the first factors you need to consider when looking for digital tools to help maintain focus.
My “checklist” is included below, which is from my recent blog post on selecting and evaluating digital tools.
Another possibility for evaluating digital tools is to use a rubric or checklist. One of the best rubrics I have come across is the one below, based off of the SAMR model and created by Andover Public Schools Digital Learning Office. I don’t know how realistic it is to assume that individual teachers would consult a rubric each time they looked at a new tool, but it could provide a good frame of reference. Rather, a rubric may be more appropriate for a committee to use when making a group decision on whether or not a adopt a new tool.
- I am eager to learn more about the tool selection process in my district. Has a rubric or evaluation process already been put into place? Who is involved in the tool selection process for the major tools we use, such as our online gradebook or our learning management systems. How often do these tools come under review?
- How can I compile my findings on evaluating digital tools into a resource for educators that is easy-to-use? Would a rubric be sufficent? Would simply sharing online resources be enough? Is it better to give a few options for tool selection and evaluation, or stick with one framework?
ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved August 03, 2016, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches
Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Educational technology: A definition with commentary. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Johnson, K. (2016, March 15). Resources to Help You Choose the Digital Tools Your Classroom Needs (EdSurge News). Retrieved August 03, 2016, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-03-15-resources-to-help-you-choose-the-digital-tools-your-classroom-needs
Teachers Know Best: What educators want from digital instructional tools. (2014). Retrieved August 3, 2016, from http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Teachers-Know-Best_0.pdf
Technology Integration Rubrics – Andover Public Schools Digital Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved August 03, 2016, from https://sites.google.com/a/k12.andoverma.us/aps-digital-learning/technology-integration-rubrics
Zielezinski, M. B. (2016, June 25). What 7 Factors Should Educators Consider When Choosing Digital Tools for Underserved Students? (EdSurge News). Retrieved August 03, 2016, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-25-what-7-factors-should-educators-consider-when-choosing-digital-tools-for-underserved-students