Education Week - August 28, 2013 - (Page 12)

12 EDUCATION WEEK AUGUST 28, 2013 n n INDUSTRY & INNOVATION > Tracking business trends and emerging models in K-12 New Sites Designed to Help Choose Best Ed-Tech Tools edshelf Goal is for smarter and faster decisions By Michele Molnar Educators struggling to choose the best technology products face a mind-boggling array of decisions, a challenge that is spawning a growing number of ed-tech product-review sites. Such sites—sometimes compared to Consumer Reports, Angie’s List, or CNet in how they use ratings and recommendations to evaluate educational technology—are now operating or are launching soon, with educators themselves assigning the grades. The effectiveness of such review sites is still a big question mark. But their existence comes at a critical time, as schools face a multitude of decisions about laptops, tablets, smartphones, digital curricula, video, apps, and other technologies. Quicker Searches About one-third of teachers spend an hour or more each week searching for educational technology they can use in their classrooms, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that focuses on children and media issues. The same survey found that 92 percent of the 764 teachers who responded would like to use more educational technology in the classroom, but—on a weekly basis— only 19 percent use subject-specific digital-content tools, and only 14 percent use digital curricula. Into that void step a number of websites that seek to help educators make smarter and faster choices—including edshelf, Graphite, PowerMyLearning, and emerging sites like EduStar (based on PowerMyLearning) and Learning List. The only one of those sites that will charge for access is Learning List, which provides in-depth analysis of digital and print educational resources and their alignment with the Common Core State Standards. PowerMyLearning, features free digital resources that have been reviewed, tagged, and verified for compliance with common core alignment by educators who are using digital learning to implement the common core in their classrooms. Jami Domeny, a 5th grade teacher at Lime Creek Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo., learned about Graphite when she attended the International Society for Technology in Education conference this summer in San Antonio. “As a 21st-century educator, there are just so many resources out there,” she said. “I will defi- nitely use it throughout the year.” “What I’ve appreciated about Graphite is that it’s helped me narrow the search,” said Ms. Domeny. Graphite was created by Common Sense Media, whose resources on digital citizenship she also uses to teach in her classroom, where each student has a laptop provided by the school to use for learning every day. On Graphite, a team of professional educators vets the tools featured, and classroom teachers who use the products can weigh in as well. Ms. Domeny provided two “field notes,” or her own evaluations for Evernote, an organizational tool that creates a digital notebook, and Edmodo, a platform that al- PURPOSE: To help teachers find the right educational tools for their needs HOW IT WORKS: Educators can recommend what works in the classroom. Using a “star” system, they assign ratings based on learning curve, pedagogical effectiveness, and student engagement. Teachers can also compile collections of tools and share them with colleagues and students. software developer Launched: 2012 Creator: Mike Lee, internet entrepreneur and former INTELLIGENCE GATHERING The effectiveness of review sites is still a big question mark, but they are emerging at a critical time for schools. Graphite PURPOSE: To help educators find the best apps, games, websites, and digital curricula rated for learning lows teachers and students to collaborate on classroom work, after learning that Graphite was offering a $25 Amazon gift card for teachers who completed two such reviews this summer during its beta test. While Graphite is review-cen- tered, edshelf wants to be considered “more of a discovery engine,” said Mike Lee, a former software developer who is the company’s co-founder and CEO. Teachers will find a curated list of free resources, ranked by “meaningful use or behavior” data programmed into the site. As teachers create collections, for instance, their selections are scored as part of rankings. Edshelf is now used by educators in 4,000 school districts, and Mr. Lee has been invited to present at conferences this fall to introduce it to more schools. Lack of Awareness Indeed, an ongoing challenge for the companies and nonprofits creating and running such review sites is simply making educators aware they exist and then getting educators to take test drives on the sites. Joel Malley, a 9th grade English teacher at Cheektowaga Central High School near Buffalo, N.Y., has been using educational technology in his classroom since 2002, when he began using iMovie Creator: CFY, a national education nonprofit Launched: 2011 Creator: Common Sense Media Launched: 2013 HOW IT WORKS: Graphite reviewers base their ratings on a measure that evaluates the learning potential of edtech products. Teachers can enter their own “field notes” about how best to use the technology in a K-12 classroom, and create Pinterest-type boards of their top picks to share with peers. Users can search by type (apps, websites, etc.), subjects, grades, and price. A blog offers pointers, like how to find the best math apps aligned with the Common Core State Standards. PowerMyLearning PURPOSE: To take the work—and guesswork—out of finding and using K-12 digital learning activities. HOW IT WORKS: A team of educators curated thousands of academic games, videos, and interactive software, tagging them by subject, grade, common standards, and more. Users can search, browse, and filter to find content, then create “playlists.” Reporting features help differentiate instruction and support learning in and out of school. IN THE WORKS: PowerMyLearning will be used to launch EduStar, which will conduct online rapid-randomized-controlled trials of digital learning activities. Evaluation results will be made widely available online.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 28, 2013

Education Week - August 28, 2013
Waiver States Under Scrutiny
Common Core: A Puzzle to Public
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Fla. Virtual School Faces Hard Times
Stacked Deck Seen in Growth of PBIS
This Week
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Most Students Aren’t Ready for College, ACT Data Show
For Rural Teachers, Mentoring Support Is Just a Click Away
Philadelphia Gears to Open Schools After Aid Reprieve
Blogs of the Week
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: New Sites Designed to Help Choose Best Ed-Tech Tools
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Museums, Researchers Shifting To Online Science Ed. Outreach
Common Core Grinds Along Amid Michigan Debate
‘Course Choice’ Venture Gets Started in Louisiana
Policy Brief
PAULA STACEY: The Best Education Diet? Real Food, Prepared Well
LINDA DIAMOND: The Cure for Common-Core Syndrome
CAROL LACH: What Really Matters In Education: Compassion
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JAMES H. NEHRING: Think Education Is Like Medicine? Think Again

Education Week - August 28, 2013