School leaders don’t have to look hard to find popular educational software applications: Best-of lists written by teachers, technology vendors and industry thought leaders clutter Twitter and the internet at large.
Some schools and districts find these resources helpful, but the wealth of recommendations can lead to choice overload. And because many district leaders lack the technology expertise that would guide them through the selection process, schools often end up with apps that don’t meet the needs of teachers and students.
The U.S. Department of Education hopes to solve this problem by creating an online tool that will help decision-makers design a scoring rubric specific to their school or district’s needs. This type of resource would make it possible to base decisions on evidence, rather than “marketing hype or the buzz among a small group of peers,” states a 2015 post on the Education Department’s Homeroom blog.
Although the Department of Education has not yet released that online tool, a planning checklist published on EdSurge could help school and district leaders in the interim. It primarily focuses on the ways apps fit into pedagogy.
“Educators should be more intentional and selective about the apps they use to ensure students are exposed to high-quality tools that maximize learning experiences for all parties involved,” wrote Ross Cooper and Kerry Gallagher, the K–12 technology experts who authored the list. The duo recommends asking the following 10 questions when evaluating potential apps:
1. What content do we want students to learn?
2. What skills will our students practice or refine when they use this app?
3. Will our students be consumers or creators when they use this app?
4. What are my students’ needs, and can this app meet them?
5. Is there a better app that achieves the same purpose?
6. Is there a comparable/better app at a cheaper price?
7. Is there an app on your devices that already does the same thing?
8. Does the app promote our school and district “best practices"?
9. How will we inform everyone else?
10. Have we talked to the app creators?
By working their way through this checklist, school leaders can steer clear of apps that are all flash and no substance, Cooper and Gallagher wrote.