3f. Collaborate to select & evaluate digital tools


Exploring new tools and devices can be a lot of fun. However, it is important to be intentional in the tools we select. The principles of Understanding by Design (which I wrote about in substandard 2F) can be helpful in this endeavor. Identifying the learning goal first and then finding tools that might augment, modify, or enhance the task is essential.

For this substandard, I wanted to take a two-fold approach to address both the selection aspect of the substandard as well as the evaluation piece. In my first piece of evidence I highlight two resources that teachers and coaches can use when researching potential tools and devices to support student learning. My second piece of evidence is a rubric that coaches and teachers can use to evaluate a potential (or existing) tool/device.

Evidence: Resources for Selection of New Tools & Devices

With so many options available for digital tools and devices to use in the classroom, it is helpful to have a starting place in the search process. The following two sources can assist teachers and coaches in locating and using new tools and devices to support student learning.

Common Sense Media maintains an excellent database of educational technology sites and apps. The search parameters can assist coaches and teachers in finding a tool to assist with a particular grade, content area, purpose, and/or skill focus. Additional parameters can limit the search by price or platform.

With over 3,000 tools currently in the database, chances are that any tool you are considering has already been reviewed by Common Sense Media. I have found their reviews to be extremely helpful in determining the usefulness of a tool, its potential applications, and any pitfalls teachers should be aware of.

For coaches and teachers who are interested in both educational technology apps and devices, Teach Tomorrow has an excellent resource guide divided into sections by devices (such as clickers or SmartBoards), apps (listed by grade level), and online courses (such as Khan Academy). An overview is given for each device or tool in addition to linked resources where you can find specific applications for your classroom.

Evidence: Evaluation of Digital Tools

Technology integration frameworks like SAMR, Triple E, or TPACK are useful in considering the ways in which technology is being used to further student learning. However, these frameworks evaluate the process of integration, not a specific tool or device. Interestingly, there are not a wide variety of common metrics available for evaluating digital tools.

In the past, I’ve mainly used personal experience to guide the evaluation process. I identified a digital education tool, tried it out separate from my students, and if it seemed to meet my needs in the classroom, I later tried it out with my class. This is wholly subjective and not very helpful in terms of giving others a framework.

After spending quite some time researching what other schools were using, I discovered the following rubric which would aid in an objective evaluation of a given tool or device.

This rubric was created by Lauren Anstey and Gavan Watson, educational developers for Western University. The intended purpose of the rubric is to “offer[] educators a framework, with criteria and levels of achievement, to assess the suitability of an e-learning tool for their learners’ needs and for their own learning outcomes and classroom context.” While created specifically for higher education, I believe this rubric is absolutely applicable for primary and secondary schools as well. For more on the rationale behind the rubric and an overview of the main categories, please visit “A Rubric for Evaluating E-Learning Tools in Higher Education.”

Source: Rubric for eLearning Tool Evaluation by Lauren M. Anstey & Gavan P.L. Watson, copyright 2018 Centre for Teaching and Learning, Western University is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License