Thursday, July 10, 2014

Making The Best App Choices With @Graphite

When I was beginning to roll out a Bring Your Own Device initiative in my previous district we spent a great deal of time sitting and talking with teachers. There are many misconceptions and questions that arise when we allow students to use their own technology in the classroom, so I wanted to make sure we addressed those right away so we could focus on the learning and not the classroom management.

10 times out of 10 the question came up, how could they find new and exciting tools, apps and sites to use with their students but still ensure they were effective and meeting their curriculum goals?

At the time the answer was an elusive one. Our Instructional Technology program had done a lot of front loading and cataloged many of our favorite apps and sites and tried to align them. But we knew that is a loosing battle as new tools are added and created everyday. 

Now teachers don't have to look across the Internet for the answer. 

Our friends at Common Sense Media have created Graphite

Graphite is an amazing site with loads of app and website resources for any classroom. 

It really breaks down into 4 different areas:

Ratings And Reviews-This is the heart of the Graphite site. Looking for information on a specific app or website? Maybe you don't know either and you are looking for suggestions. This is the place to go. You can filter all the site has to offer by type of resource (app or website or even console game like Playstation), grade level, subject area or cost. Once you find a resource you want to investigate you get a page full of helpful information. Screenshots, Graphite and Teacher reviews (which are super helpful), pros and cons of using the resource it's all there to help you make an informed decision on the best resources to use in your classroom. 

The best feature I think is the Learning Score. Broken down into Engagement, Pedagogy and Support, this is where the Graphite rating comes from. Reviewers look at the resource and score it against a rubric in those three areas. As a teacher you get a good idea of how the resource will work in your classroom and support learning. 

Top Picks-This section is just that, the top tools, apps and sites. But it's not just a listing. They are broken down into areas like Top Tools For Remixing or Tools For Teaching And Learning About Diversity. There are loads of these topic areas and they change all the time so you will definitely want to come back and see whats new and exciting. 

Common Core Explorer-For many teachers following the Common Core Standards is a reality. Finding technology resources to support the Common Core can be a challenge. In this section you can drill into your specific set of Common Core Standards for Language Arts or Math. There you can find educator reviewed technology tools to help you teach those standards.

Teacher Center-This section is full of helpful resources for using apps and websites in the classroom. Start with the Getting Started section to see the videos for using the different parts of the Teacher Center. 

Then spend some time with App Flows. Starting with a standard lesson plan template, App Flows help you look at the different parts of your lesson to see if technology fits there and what type of technology works there. For teachers who need help understanding the role technology has in learning, App Flows can really help. There is a large community as well so you can see the other App Flows that have been created. 

Lastly you can check out the Appy Hour videos and sign up for the next one. Done through Google Hangouts, you can join live or see the recording of how various, popular apps are being used in the classroom. 

I am a big fan of what Common Sense Media has created with Graphite. Its a fabulous resource for helping teachers in 1:1, BYOD or any classroom better use technology for teaching and learning. 

Head over to Graphite and see all it has to offer!

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