Choosing Digital Tools for the Classroom

This quarter as part of Seattle Pacific University’s EDTC 6104 Digital Learning Environments class, I investigated the question: “What are the best practices for choosing digital tools and content for the classroom?” My goal was to find information on what educators are wanting from digital tools and to learn how to choose digital tools that fit within your classroom/ school environment. Through research, my focus for this investigation was to cover the following ISTE Coaching Standard:

3F. Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure.

Finding the “Right” Tools

When beginning my research I found an article written by Meg Hamel where she compares how to find the “right” tools to planning a meal for your family.

“To make a great meal for your family, you’ve got to factor in budget, individual schedules, food preferences or sensitivities, flavor, and nutritional value. The same kind of planning should happen when beginning a search for edtech products. Administrators and teachers must build a shared understanding of the specific goals for teaching and learning for their school.”

Meg Hamel goes on to recommend building a list of “What you have versus what you need” and to evaluate what has been successful within your classrooms and which areas could need more digital support. In a study by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Bill, 2015) shows that most teachers see the value that using technology can have in the classroom and prefer tools that:

  • Are consistent, inviting, and easy for teachers to use
  • Are intuitive and easy for students to use.
  • Saves teachers time and is simple to integrate into instruction.
  • Allows both teachers and students to continually tailor tasks and instruction based on individual student skills and progress.
Chart from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on What Teachers Want from Technology

The chart above is sorted by grade level as well as by subject that shows the different ways digital technology can be used in the classroom. As you can see the higher the grade, the more digital technology goes from simply a new way of delivery to more of a supportive role in the classroom. (Bill, 2015) Teachers also shared how technology could be tailored for more student-driven or teacher-driven learning in the chart below:

Chart from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In the link below I also provided some recommended apps/resources by Liz Kolb who sorts her digital tools into four categories: Social Use, Higher-Level Thinking, Value-Added, and Authentic Context.

https://www.iste.org/explore/Toolbox/4-tips-for-choosing-the-right-edtech-tools-for-learning

Through my research I also found two edtech databases that help teachers narrow down what they are looking for in an app/resource. These databases are Edsurge and Common Sense Education. After learning more about these databases, I feel they can be helpful in choosing new technologies and assist teachers in finding an appropriate resource without feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of digital choices they have to choose from.

Resources

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (K-12 Education Team). (2015). Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want From Digital Instructional Tools. Retrieved from http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/resource/what-educators-want-from-digital-instructional-tools-2-0/

Hamel, Meg. (2017, September 24). The Secret Sauce to Choosing Edtech? Find Tools By Fit, Not Feature. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-09-24-the-secret-sauce-to-choosing-edtech-find-tools-by-fit-not-feature

ISTE Standards for Coaches (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kolb, Liz. (2016, December 20). 4 tips for choosing the right edtech tools for learning. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/Toolbox/4-tips-for-choosing-the-right-edtech-tools-for-learning

3 Comments to “Choosing Digital Tools for the Classroom”

  1. Brittany,
    I like the idea from Meg Hamel which recommend building a list of “What you have versus what you need” and to evaluate what has been successful within your classrooms and which areas could need more digital support. Teachers need to know clearly about their needs and goals which can get supports from digital technology. The chart is so helpful to clarify what technology’s role in a different grade level within different subjects. Thank you for your sharing.

  2. I love the idea of using technology in education to tailor the learning experience to different students needs. I find this particularly useful in STEM education. I rarely have a class of students in which one teaching method will work for a majority of students. Some students need to have a book to ground their learning while other students would prefer to learn through doing (i.e., assignments). Some students pick up concepts faster than others. Many students need to put a new concept into practice to actually fully grasp the concept. What gets me really excited is when the students that get a concept early help other students learn the same concept. This puts students in the teacher role – and has many of the benefits you list in the chart from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bravo!

  3. I always learn so much from you, Brittany! The ISTE tips for ‘Choosing the Right Edtech Tools for Learning’ is so helpful. I am going to add it to my Wakelet resources to share with others! It is exciting to start moving from just using technology as a new method of delivery and into it being a more supportive tool in the classroom…such a meaningful shift and the resources you have shared will help others to get there!

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