Friday, July 12, 2013

Graphite - Digital Tool Evaluation Site

Common Sense Media has been our go-to site to teach students how to be responsible digital citizens.  Their lessons and videos cover all areas of digital citizenship at all grade levels.  We encourage our parents to sign up for their newsletter too, as it provides helpful reviews and advice for managing media with their children. 
A couple weeks ago Common Sense Media introduced a new service, Graphite, to help teachers find online tools to enhance classroom learning.  The site allows teachers to search by type (apps, games, websites), subject matter, grade level, and price.  They also provide a page of “Top Picks” for teachers to see what is currently trending. The resources (web based, tablet apps) are reviewed by a team from Common Sense Media. Here's how their ratings are developed. They also accept input from teachers who can sign up to provide some classroom based evaluation, as well as examples how to use the tool reviewed. It will be interesting to see how this all works over time.

In any case, it is an improvement over various online 'stores' where the evaluation criteria is either completely unknown, or does not have any basis in assisting students in a learning environment ("hey, this gets 5 stars and was downloaded a million times, it MUST be good for my classroom!" is not necessarily a valid teacher judgement.)

When you select a tool, you are provided a collection of information on the site/app.  This includes general information, link to standards, student skills it addresses, pros and cons of the site, and a rating system on engagement, pedagogy and support.

The ratings are a result of data collected by a team of educators, and based on very specific criteria.  References to standards include CCSS for ELA and math, and state standards for science and social studies.

Here is an example of my selection, Mission US: Flight to Freedom, a “top pick”. I have used this site in my classroom and find the ratings and comments that I see on Graphite to be very much in line with my own observations. 

Summer is a great time to start looking for new learning opportunities that engage your students. Consider bookmarking Graphite and referring to it when you need something new. Teachers new to technology will find this site invaluable in helping to weed out the myriad of choices.

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