Sep 27 2013

Why Is Bill Gates Pitching for Graphite?

New website allows educators to preview and review the latest educational apps.

Bill Gates is a lot of things — technology pioneer, business mogul, billionaire philanthropist, ed-tech advocate. But startup entrepreneur? It’s been a while, but … hey, it’s not like the guy hasn’t done it before.

In an article that first appeared on CNET, freelance writer Dara Kerr profiles Graphite, a new Gates-backed website built in partnership with Common Sense Media that helps connect teachers with the latest in classroom technology. 

Gates, through the foundation he runs with his wife, Melinda, has long supported the use of technology in the nation’s K–12 classrooms, but it isn’t every day that one of the world’s richest men throws money at an upstart education product review site.

"Graphite will make it easier for educators to find the tools they want and empower them to do their best work," Gates said in a statement about the venture quoted by CNET. "It's a great example of how we can support teachers who want to incorporate education technology in their classroom to help every student excel."

Sounds Pretty Cool. But How Does It Work Exactly? 

Educators can log onto the site for free to search for resources, including apps, games, websites and digital curricula — “all rated for learning.”

Each resource is evaluated by the site’s editors based on 15 categories, or “learning dimensions.” Every product review includes a full write-up and rankings related to performance, pedagogy, engagement, support and more. Think Consumer Reports for education technology. 

See something that catches your eye? Get answers to questions like “How can teachers use it?” Or “Is it good for learning?” Or check out screen grabs of the products and read reviews and comments from fellow educators who have already tried the resources in their classrooms. 

Keep in mind, though, that users can’t download the technology featured on the site directly from Graphite. It’s not an app store, though the site does provide important information, such as price, grade level, technology supported and academic subjects covered, to help educators make more informed decisions. 

Organizers say all of the resources on the site are evaluated and mapped for alignment to emerging Common Core standards.

Much like Car and Driver, Graphite says its editors “road test” every piece of technology featured to determine its potential for classroom use. 

Looking for new technology-based resources to use with students in your classroom? It’s worth taking Graphite for a spin. Bill Gates thinks you’ll love it.