You just received a classroom set of iPads and can’t wait to start using them to help your students meet the Common Core literacy
standards. You soon realize, however,
that there are hundreds of apps that
claim to meet literacy learning goals.
Finding the right apps can be a
daunting task for busy teachers. And
while there are a handful of websites
that can help teachers find appropriate
apps (see “Sites for Vetting Apps”), it is
still important to do your homework.
Because no site or app is perfect for
all classrooms, I’ve put together criteria you should consider before using
an app with your students.
Curriculum connection. Just because an
app looks fun or is engaging, it does
not mean that it will meet your classroom learning goals. Always ask yourself if the app or website provides opportunities to directly meet your goals.
Age appropriate. Some apps claim they
can adjust to meet students at their
zone of proximal development—
where they are challenged just enough.
Others say they can assess students
and place them at their appropriate
developmental level. Test-drive the
app to make sure these claims are true.
Also find out if you can turn features
on and off and whether users can
choose their levels.
Types of skills. Does the app focus on
“drill and practice,” or does it develop
creativity, innovative thinking, and
problem-solving skills? While the latter is higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy,
there are times when teachers may
want to reinforce learning ideas.
Collaboration. Decide if you want students to work together or individually.
If you are looking for apps that allow
collaboration, find out if they pro-
vide opportunities for users to create
knowledge together rather than just
commenting on each other’s work.
Self-awareness. While not all apps
focus on self-awareness, it is helpful
if the tool develops self-confidence.
Does the app provide opportunities
for students to develop empathy and
make safe, kind, and positive emotional connections with others?
Tech skills. Be cognizant of the technology skills required to use the app.
Does the app allow students to meet
Ethics and safety. While many digital
resources are targeted at children,
not all of them—even those that
claim to be educational—consider
ethical or safety issues. Apps should
remind students about online privacy
when it prompts them to post something, moderate conversations, and
invite parents to participate. Above all,
the app should provide safeguards for
Levels. It is important to look at the
different ways students can use apps to
show their work and learn new ideas.
Some tools allow students to level up
to attain more challenging tasks. For
example, a media-generating tool
might allow students to begin with a
simple photo slide show and progress
to adding narration, text, music, and
hyperlinks. Students should be able to
get the help they need but also progress at their own pace. Look for tools
that represent content in different ways
and also allow students to express their
understanding in multiple ways.
Engagement and enhancement. The
app should draw students into the
learning environment in a fun and
motivating way while helping them
focus on their learning. But motivation is not a big enough reason to use
an app. Ultimately, engagement fades
if there is not another purpose. The
tool should also allow students to do
something they couldn’t without the
technology, and it should help them
learn more deeply or differently.
How to Select the Best Websites and Apps to Meet Your Students’
Sites for Vetting Apps
Check out these sites, which allow educators to search by theme, grade level, standards,
and content, to find a list of vetted apps for your classroom:
Graphite (by Common Sense Media) |
EdSurge | www.edsurge.com/products/