by Luz Chavez
When I was looking to trade in my car, I walked away from an offer time and time again. Truth is, I didn’t need a new car. I planned on getting one only if it made sense for my budget and my driving needs.
Likewise, as much of an edtech geek that I am, I will be the first to tell you that teachers don’t need tech. Millions of brilliant teachers have guided brilliant minds even long before the days of dusty chalkboards.
Sure, tech can make your life easier and can add value to your curriculum—if you make calculated, wise purchases. Before you buy any technology, ask yourself questions that really get at the heart of whether you need the tech.
How well does this tech support my curriculum?
Your curriculum goals need to drive the tech you purchase, not the other way around; tech should always be a means, not an end.
Is it engaging and easy to use?
This brilliant piece by a tech-savvy student offers insights into what edtech works and what doesn’t.
Does its longevity match the cost?
Avoid expensive one-shot deals. For example, why buy a $5 app about the 2016 election when there will be oodles of free timely content available? However, a reasonably priced subscription service that gives you ongoing access to timely content on a variety of topics sounds like a great deal.
Does the tool fit into my school’s tech strategy?
Will the tool work with my school’s network and wireless infrastructure?
If you have to ask this question, what you’re buying is probably expensive enough to need administrative approval. In these cases, try to convince administration to pilot the program in your classroom.
How imaginative is the tool? Is it simply another way for students to write papers or create static presentations?
Tech tools should help give students access to the world, spark dialogue, research answers to their questions, and create content to demonstrate and apply what they learned. Otherwise, it’s just fancy busy work.
What questions would you add to the list?
Luz Chavez is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development.
by Erin Dye
In a world where tablets are becoming as ubiquitous in classrooms as pencils and paper, the need for high quality educational apps continues to rise. Developers have sought to meet the demand for such technology by creating and releasing new apps every day. But sometimes it isn’t so easy for teachers and administrators to find the best app to pair with a given lesson. That’s where the new Google Play for Education comes in.
Designed specifically for educators, Google Play for Education is an online marketplace filled with educational apps, books, and videos. But what sets it apart from other app stores?
We’re really impressed with Google Play for Education’s search capabilities. Let’s say you are looking for an app to supplement your lesson on multiplying fractions. You can open the Apple App Store and type “multiplying fractions” into the search bar, but your only results will be the few apps that include those exact words in their titles because the App Store is not searchable by keyword. Google Play for Education makes it easier to customize your search, allowing teachers to browse by subject, keyword, grade, or even Common Core standard. Let’s hope Apple follows suit with improved search filters.
The quality of apps available on these markets is a huge concern. Google has asked teachers to review thousands of apps, marking approved apps with a yellow badge. These badges have the potential to be a more useful metric than a “most downloaded” list.
Another useful feature of Google Play for Education is how it allows teachers to buy content using their school’s designated purchase orders. Streamlining the purchase process encourages educators to use more apps and digital content in their lesson plans because they’ll no longer have to worry about when and if they’ll get their money reimbursed. This is something Apple has been lacking.
However, Google Play for Education is not without its drawbacks. The biggest one we’ve encountered so far is accessibility. As of now, the store is only accessible to teachers and administrators with a school Google account. Students, parents, or other interested parties (such as bloggers and reviewers) cannot even browse the store’s content. A personal Google account won’t cut it. While this requirement nicely highlights the fact that Google Play for Education is designed just for educators, it creates a significant roadblock between customers and content.
For a more in-depth look at what Google Play for Education has to offer, check out this video. Overall, we think this market has the potential to be better for both teachers and developers. What do you think?
Erin Dye is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development with extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.
by Dagmar Ladle
When a school looks to integrate technology, it must look beyond just purchasing cool tools. Purchasing what’s trendy without a plan leads down a dangerous road, as we saw with Los Angeles’s iPad rollout fumble this year. To create a solid technology plan, administrators should ask themselves, “What are my curricular objectives?” and work backward from there. If the tool does not help you achieve your curricular objectives, do not purchase it!
I recommend using Wiggins and McTighe’s Backward Design approach. Start with defining the learning outcomes your school is hoping to have students achieve. Then build the curriculum, including the 21st-century tools that will support achieving these objectives.
Things to consider when purchasing technology for classrooms:
- What is the overall curricular objective?
- How can technology help achieve this objective?
- How will this particular tool change the way students learn and teachers teach?
- How will the school administration support the staff so that the tool and all it has to offer is truly integrated? (I see this as two separate professional development needs: What can it do and how do I use it? and How do I integrate it into my lessons?)
- How will the tool be supported? What happens when it breaks/it dies/a light bulb burns out/a cable breaks/a connection is lost/an inevitable problem occurs?
- What is the life expectancy of the tool, and what happens when the tool reaches it?
- What is the backup plan for consumables? Teachers do not tolerate downtime well, as they have a live audience daily. If a bulb dies, the teacher must be able to have a replacement immediately.
Dagmar Ladle is Manager of Consulting Services at Green Light Professional Development. Before Green Light, Dagmar worked for Chicago Public Schools, Promethean, and Apple. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.