As a coach and STEM Facilitator I am continually working with other educators to evaluate digital resources in order to determine if they are the right fit for the lesson, aligned with building and district goals, or even just looking at how easy they are to use. This work is sometimes a formal process but most of the time this is done informally through one-on-one conversations with other educators. The one thing that is always a part of the conversation however is how the digital resource supports student learning and connects with our goals. If these things are not present then we should not be using the resources.
One thing that I have found though is that it is important to know what we are looking for in a resource and that we don’t want to spend forever trying to evaluate the resource. When working informally with educators, I’ve found that often that first gut reaction is the right reaction. So it is important to give educators time to explore and play with the resource first. This way they have first hand knowledge of how the resource works, features of the resource, and how easy it is to navigate and find what you want. As a coach I want to make this process easy for educators and not time consuming, NEAtoday.org actually says that most educators can quickly evaluate a resource in 7 minutes by playing with the resource and answering 3 questions; 1) What does the resource cost? 2) Will it work with my existing learning management system? and 3) Is it easy to install and set up? If a resource makes it past these things and the teacher still wants to use it then I work with the teacher to look at the resource closer. In our district we actually have a digital resource request form that educators fill out asking for approval to use a resource. This often happens after the teacher has done their own initial evaluation and I’ve had a chance to work with them to make sure it meets their goals and supports students. Something else that I have realized through this work is the importance of sharing the resource with others. I have been a part of many conversations that have started with, hey I just found this great resource. Therefore I have been thinking about how coaches and educators can efficiently share resources that we find that align with student learning and building or district goals. That way we are all learning from each other and not having to recreate the wheel once we find something that works. You can read more about other resources for evaluating digital tools or ideas for how to share digital tools once we find them in my blog post, Ideas for Evaluating Digital Technology Resources and Sharing What You Learned With Others.
Another way that I have been partnering with other educators to evaluate digital learning content is through my participation on a committee that is evaluating two different digital math resources in order to determine which resource to recommend the district use next year. My work on this committee has allowed me to take all of the resources and learning that I have done around this indicator and apply it to my job. As part of this committee we have looked at each resource individually taking time to explore the resource, learn more about it and determine its ease-of-use and access for both students families and teachers. The committee also constructed a rubric that could be used when evaluating the digital resource so that we could all be looking at the same criteria as we evaluated. Each committee member was given the opportunity to use the rubric, their exploration of the tool, and how they’ve seen it used in classrooms in order to determine a score for each Criterion on the rubric. The committee then came together to review all scores, discussed evidence for or against each resource and finally came to a recommendation around which resource best supported student learning, aligned with district vision and goals and made sense for continuing the use of next school year. We are now in the process of sharing our recommendation with additional district stakeholders in order to make decisions for implementation or usage next year. We will then be looking at what professional learning might need to be included depending on which resource the district decides to move forward with.
I would like to continue to explore efficient ways for coaches and educators to work together to evaluate digital resources, thinking about the fact that time is always one of those things that we don’t have enough up. So how can we create systems that truly allow for someone to effectively evaluate a resource without spending hours. I also would like to partner with my supervisor and potentially some other facilitators within my department to really look at how we are evaluating digital resources as a team, what rubrics we are using to do this and how we might streamline the process in order to make it more efficient for ourselves. I say this because oftentimes when digital resources are submitted for approval of use it can take a long time for the district to look at the resource, evaluate it and either approve or not approve it for use. This can then lead to frustration on the teachers part. So how can we make the process more streamlined and seamless.
How to Evaluate Tech Tools You’ve Never Used in Less Than Seven Minutes. (2019, July 24). NEA Today. http://neatoday.org/2019/07/24/how-to-evaluate-tech-tools-youve-never-used-in-less-than-seven-minutes/
ISTE Standards for Coaches (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches