Feedback. The tool should offer
feedback when students progress to
higher levels or create new projects.
The feedback should be immediate
and let users find help if they need it.
Ease of use. Apps should be fairly
intuitive. If students have to constantly ask the teacher for help, then
the app is probably too difficult for
them. Navigation options, such as
saving, getting help, and finding the
homepage, should be obvious and
easy to find, and users should be able
to maneuver around with little to no
Access. Consider how many different
ways users can access the app. It’s best
if students can use it from multiple
platforms, such as tablets, laptops,
e-readers, and smartphones.
Cost. While we all prefer great resources that are free, it is important
to remember that sometimes it might
be best to pay for something that
could create quality learning experiences for the students.
Data collection. Is the app able to collect data from users, such as how
often and when students access it, as
well as monitor students’ progress?
National curriculum connection. Some
teachers may find it important to directly link national curriculum with
the resource, while others may not
need a direct link. Find out if the app
connects directly or indirectly with
Common Core curriculum.
Updates. It’s essential to know how
often the app is updated because curriculum changes quickly. There is also
a better chance that the software will be
less “glitchy” if it is frequently updated.
Languages. By using resources with
multiple language options, you’ll create
a better learning environment for all
students. Find out if the app has more
than one language. If it does, it might
allow parents of English language
learners to help their children even
if they aren’t proficient in English.
Equity. This is often overlooked when
evaluating an app. Digital inequality
runs along gender, economic, racial,
and cultural lines. When evaluating
an app or tool, check to see if there is
only a male narrator or whether women are stereotyped as less intelligent.
Does there seem to be a bias toward
one racial group? Do you notice any
glaring stereotypes that you do not
want to reinforce?
Culturally relevant pedagogy. Using
students’ everyday culture in the
classroom can be a bridge to help the
home-to-school connection. Look for
apps that provide ways for students
to connect with their cultural backgrounds. For example, a geography
app might allow users to select the
region where they live, choose the local dialect, and pick a particular song
that has personal meaning to them.
No app is perfect, but some are a
better fit than others. Before selecting
an app—or any educational technology tool—rank the above categories
according to your learning goals. Then
rate and review apps to find those that
are the best fit for your classroom.
—Liz Keren-Kolb is a clinical assistant professor at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor,
Michigan. She previously worked as a social
studies and computer technology teacher as well
as a technology coordinator and technology integration specialist. She has written three books
about using cell phones in the classroom.
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