Selecting and Evaluating Digital Tools

Overview

When selecting digital tools to use in the classroom I often run into the same few issues:

  1. I get caught up exploring a tool I think is “cool” and lose sight of the objective, often trying to force use of a tool that isn’t the best for the task at hand.
  2. When I realize a tool isn’t appropriate for the task, often after exploring it for a long time, I have to start the process over, wasting valuable planning time.
  3. Looking for a tool in the first place can be daunting, there are so many great ones out there!

In order to help myself, and hopefully my colleagues, break this cycle, I have recently been exploring methods for making the process of tool selection more effective.  One great place to locate and review digital tools is Common Sense Media’s Education site (formerly Graphite).  This site offers both site and educator reviews of just about every digital tool relating to education that is out there.  The reviews can be categorized by subject, standard, or by top picks.  Since finding this site, my tool selection process has been greatly streamlined, yet my issues have not bene solved entirely.  To  aid in the tool selection process, I have put together the infographic below which briefly describes the four main points I consider when selecting and evaluating digital tools to use in a learning environment. While not all factors need to be met with every tool, keeping each in mind will help determine what tool is best for the task at hand!

cf70c935-183d-47a1-9c7b-aa37699d2a0c (2)

Review of a Digital Tool

Overview

Using the criteria outlined in the four points to consider, I chose to review the new Google Sites.  I choose this tool because it just became available in my district I think there would be a lot of use for it, both for educators and for students.  The new Google Sites allows users to create websites directly from their Google Drives and easily edit and embed content.  I am very excited about this tool and have started switching over my old class website to a new Google Site.  I intend on having students make their own sites for future projects too. Specifically, in the past I have had students create a theme poster project at the end of our short stories unit.  After sharing and turning them in, they ultimately make their way to the recycling bin.  If students share this information on Sites, they can easily share with others in, and out, of the classroom and archive their work when finished.  They can also include various media, collaborate more easily, and still maintain focus on aesthetics.  Using the new sites can totally redefine this project!

To get started, just go to your Google Drive, click “New” and then “Site” and prompted directions will walk you through the rest.  On the site ControlAltAchieve, contributor Eric Curtis includes a detailed article, titled “The Totally New Google Sites“, that walks users through the process of getting started!

Review

  • Appropriateness: Sites is easy to use! It allows users to seamlessly embed content, such as slideshows, videos, documents, images, and much more.  Sites is probably the easiest-to-use website creation platform I have come across–it is easy to navigate through the tools, simple to quickly edit and update, and made for collaboration! It would be appropriate for any grade or level of expertise. I see this tool working for a variety of tasks, enabling users to redefine how they share and present information.
  • Cost: Google Apps for Education is free but the business version has a fee per user. Like most Google tools, the new Google Sites is being rolled out in stages so it may not be available to you just yet.
  • Platform: As this tool allows users to create websites, they are viewable from any device that gets internet. Sites allows users to view their site from a computer screen, tablet, or phone, to make sure it looks great on any device!
  • Management Abilities: Users can choose who views their site (just their network or the entire web) and who collaborates with them on it.  Those viewing the site can subscribe, allowing them to recieve email updates when changes are made to the site.

Resources

Browse All Reviews and Ratings. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2016, from https://www.commonsense.org/education/reviews/all

Curtis, E. (2016, June 13). Control Alt Achieve: The Totally New Google Sites. Retrieved July 29, 2016, from http://www.controlaltachieve.com/2016/06/new-google-sites.html

SAMR Model – Technology Is Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2016, from https://sites.google.com/a/msad60.org/technology-is-learning/samr-model