Choosing the Right Ed Tech Resources for Educators & Students
What are the factors to consider in selecting the resources relevant to the educators and students who will use the tool?
As you navigate the process of selecting the most relevant ed tech resources for your school or district, it is important that they be effective for the educators and students who will utilize them. There are multiple factors to consider because you want everyone who will use the resources to be happy with the selection.
1. Aligned to the Curriculum
The resources should:
- be embedded in the curriculum or have the capability of being embedded. The more you collaborate with your curriculum and instruction offices to advocate for using the resources in the curriculum, the easier it is to justify the purchase.
- align to curriculum standards being taught in the school or district.
- align to any scope and sequence being used in the curriculum.
- compliment or resonate with the instruction already happening in classrooms. Educators are always happy to have a tool that makes their job more effective and efficient.
These factors are:
- Interoperability. Can the resource be used across devices and platforms? Does it conflict with something already being used successfully?
- Ease of use. Is the resource easy to understand and use? Educators are too busy to use something that is hard to understand and implement.
- Compatibility with learning and student management systems. Can it link to systems such as Canvas, Clever, or Schoology? Can the resources be embedded in Google Classroom, Office 365, or Blackboard? Can Destiny or TLC searches find the resources?
- Ease and equity of access. Do the resources need a password to access in school? What is the remote access process? Can the resources be downloaded for offline access?
- What will the professional development look like to use and implement the tool in instruction? Administrators should include educators in the decision-making process to promote a positive environment for using the resources.
- Find those teachers who understand the importance of the resource and encourage them to share their successes and expertise.
- Remember to utilize those student initiator leaders who will be happy to explore the resource and teach their peers.
4. Fit for your Students
The most important piece of this is the 508 compliance of the resources. Many ed tech resource companies have spent months or years redesigning their products to make them 508 compliant and it is important that all students can access the resources regardless of ability limitations.
What does it mean to be 508 compliant?
It means the websites are designed to include:
- Navigation that is simple, intuitive, and predictable
- Text-to-Speech on all articles
- Transcripts for all videos
- Alternative text and descriptive titles for meaningful images
- Screen Reader support
- Access keys for keyboard-only navigation
- Color contrast designed to support color-blind and low vision
Additionally, students are more likely to use the resources if they are:
- Easy to use. How do they log in to the resource? Multiple logins are frustrating, and students won’t go hunting. How many clicks does it take for the students to find the answer? Too many clicks means the student will give up and go to Google.
- Compatible across multiple devices. Does your school or district allow students to bring their own device? Are you a one-to-one school or district? Can the resource be accessed anytime and anywhere, even when there might only be one smartphone in the home with internet access? The students need to feel like the resources are working FOR them, not against them.
- Able to connect with the rest of their digital ecosystem. Can they cite the resource easily? Can the information be uploaded or shared with other applications used by the student? If the student is creating a digital product, does the ed tech resource sync or integrate with that product?
5. Think Long-term
Does it meet the school or district’s student data management policies? When/if the use and effectiveness of the resource tips the scale and needs to go from Freemium to paid, are you prepared to budget for that?
Technology and ed tech resources have become more and more ubiquitous in our classrooms, schools and districts and will continue to do so. A closing thought from the 2017 National Technology Plan Update from the U.S. Department of Education: “When carefully designed and thoughtfully applied, technology can accelerate, amplify, and expand the impact of effective teaching practices. However, to be transformative, educators need to have the knowledge and skills to take full advantage of technology-rich learning environments.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION http://tech.ed.gov
Further resources to help you determine ways for educators and students to use ed tech resources:
- Educator Toolkit; using Educational Technology - 21st Century Supports for English Learners
- EdWeek: Technology in Education overview
- Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education; 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update
Curriculum Standards for Academic K-12 curriculum links:
- Common Core State Standards
- American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards Framework for Learners
- Next Generation Science Standards
- National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
- National Health Education Standards
- National Common Core Math Standards
- National English Language Arts Standards
- World-readiness Standards For Learning Languages
- National Core Arts Standards
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students