New resource will help educators, parents evaluate digital tools

“Not only do more children than ever have access to digital media, they have an increasing number of choices in the types of media they can own and use. The definition of a media ‘platform’ has blurred as it has become possible to consume media in a variety of ways. Television, for example, can be streamed via the internet and viewed on a personal computer,” the report notes. “Children’s books can be read on iPads. Cell phones can browse the web, play video games, and hold a 5,000-song music collection, in addition to making calls. There is an ever-increasing menu of options in how kids access content.”

A 2008 poll from Common Sense Media and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center revealed that parents recognized digital media might carry educational benefits. This new program will evaluate and highlight learning opportunities in popular and educational digital media such as mobile apps, games, websites, and more.

“Our kids spend more and more of their time online, learning, playing, and interacting with one another,” said Cathy N. Davidson, a Duke University professor and co-founder of HASTAC, an organization that examines how technology can influence teaching, learning, and communication.

“Rather than being one-size-fits-all, Common Sense [Media] tools will allow parents to set their own standards and goals for their kids’ media use and then see if the media out there meets those standards,” she said. Davidson added that the tool will help “parents to choose the right media and, perhaps even more importantly, to be informed enough to help their children learn how to make good choices for themselves.”

The new tool might prompt teachers to use more digital media in their classrooms if they feel better equipped to evaluate various digital tools.

The 2010 Speak Up Survey results from Project Tomorrow revealed an “exploding interest” in digital content and eBooks.  Just one year ago, only 9 percent of administrators surveyed said they were concerned about how to evaluate the quality of digital resources. The latest survey revealed that 35 percent of administrators reported those same concerns.

School librarians have played a key role in helping teachers use digital content, with 47 percent of librarians in the survey reporting that they find specific digital content to support classroom lectures. Thirty-three percent said they help to train teachers to locate and evaluate digital content.

Laura Ascione
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