New Sites Aim to Help Pick Best Ed-Tech Tools

edtech.ashxIf you are an educator of any stripe, you know that there is a multiplicity of online resources and technology tools available that, if utilized properly, could bring greater efficiency to the field of education and recognizable gains for students in classrooms. The potential of these ed-tech tools is not in question.

Some educators are in schools and/or districts in which embracing new education technology tools is a mandate, not a choice. In this climate, the need to stay ahead of the game is paramount.

The catch for educators, however, is finding which resources are worth it.

Many new resources come and go, some never get beyond the beta stage, and many others never gain enough followers to allow you to collaborate with others.  Teachers also spend a significant amount of time looking for ed-tech tools that will be worth their while. According to one survey one-third of teachers spend an hour or more each week searching for educational technology they can use in their classrooms.

If that at all describes you as an educator, look no further than this list of new startups designed to provide reviews for ed-tech and to make the process of finding useful ed-tech more efficient: edshelf, Graphite, PowerMyLearning, and emerging sites like EduStar (based on PowerMyLearning) and Learning List.

Below are brief descriptions of each, from an article by Michele Molnar of Education Week:

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.

Graphite was created by Common Sense Media….On Graphite, a team of professional educators vets the tools featured, and classroom teachers who use the products can weigh in as well.

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.

Another review project under development is EduStar, which will conduct online rapid-randomized-controlled trials of digital learning activities with students via New York City-based CFY’s platform. CFY, a national educational nonprofit, was founded as Computers for Youth, but later abandoned that name as too hardware-focused and limiting. A research advisory board of experts in psychometrics, research design, and economics has developed the methodologies that will be used for EduStar, and prototype trials are expected to begin this fall.

One company working to address that need is Learning List, whose online library of professional reviews draws from educators trained to verify—or rebut—publishers’ claims about their alignments with the Common Core standards. The publishers themselves can comment on how educators have assessed their products. 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.

If any of these manages to catch on, and particularly if teachers begin to use and include their thoughts on the various ed-tech tools that they use, educators have a real chance to benefit from these new sites.

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