1. Does the technology align to pedagogy?
“Don’t just choose a math game because you’re teaching math,” said Simon. “Choose a math game that works on the skills and particular section of math you’re trying to teach.”
Simon also suggests considering the questions: “What are the objectives,” “Is this the right tool for the objective,” “Can this extend to other activities,” “Is it interactive,” and “Is the interaction meaningful?”
“What we mean by interactive and meaningful is ‘Does the tool allow for discussion?’ Does the tool give more than just positive feedback to the student?’ and ‘Does the tool allow that student to learn in a manner other than rote learning?’” asked Simon.
2. Are these technology tools additional materials that allow students to do and teachers to facilitate learning?
According to Nemeth, too many teachers use computers or iPads as ways to simply keep students occupied in one place.
“Sometimes teachers plop students in a computer lab and let the student do whatever they want because ‘they’re on a computer.’ That’s not productive,” said Nemeth. “Don’t use technology to get more time to grade papers. Use technology as a way to supplement material and enhance learning.”
Simon added that technology actually should be a way to help foster relationships between teacher and students.
“Adults need to be available to support the learning and guide the student,” she said.
3. Does the app or software give children autonomy?
Both Simon and Nemeth agree that good software for kids allows for content creation and ability to progress (leveled challenges), not content consumption and filling out a worksheet-esque activity.
“Examples of this can include software for creating their own eBooks, videos or even interactive presentations,” said Simon.
4. Is the cost worth it?
“You have to understand that from the developer’s side, a simple app with flashcards is easy to make and it’s cheap, which is why it’s usually free or 99 cents,” explained Nemeth. “Sometimes paying more and investing in a more expensive app is worth it for the quality of activity and pedagogy built-in.”
5. Does the device and/or software cater to multiple students?
According to the experts, the more students the technology can accommodate, the better the investment.
“Consider usability and instructional design,” said Simon. “Is it flashy, distracting, overwhelming, or does it have just enough appealing graphics and sounds to engage but not distract? Also consider whether or not the software is free of ads or ‘edutainment.”
Simon suggests sorting through software and apps by discerning whether or not the software has been vetted by trusted sources, is easy for kids to navigate independently, and whether or not it allows for constructive feedback.
“The best tools also enhance dual language learning, represent diversity and allow access for all children with disabilities,” said Nemeth.
(Next page: Technology considerations 6-10)