3. Untested Apps and Online Tools: Thanks to the explosive growth of mobile technology and its use in education, apps and digital resources and tools across a host of platforms are also available…perhaps dizzyingly so. Checking education apps and tools on any large platform, like the Apple Store, for educator-based comments and reviews is tedious; and often challenges like apps and tools that are never updated, or apps and tools that don’t actually perform as promised cause more headaches then they’re worth.
Better Option? Vetted apps and tools. Because of the overwhelming choice of apps and digital tools and resources that currently exist for education, some notable industry companies and organizations have taken the time to vet these tools for educators, using a selection process based on their own experience as well as feedback from teachers and administrators. For example, Common Sense Media reviews apps, digital tools and much more, providing feedback from educators when applicable. You can find their vetted apps here on eSchool News, as well as their “EdTech Eleven” monthly tool and resource picks here.
4. Anything That’s Not Accessible: With the growth of online and blended education options, as well as digital tools and technologies, accessibility has become a hot-button issue in education. Accessibility not only applies to technology hardware and software, but to school websites, classroom content, and literally anything on the cloud.
Better Option? Consult IT First. During an EDUCAUSE 2015 conference, a panel of education IT experts were asked to discuss accessibility issues as they related not just to overall school technology, but specifically to classroom materials and technology. EDUCAUSE even has its own IT Accessibility Constituent Group that its members can consult for accessibility advice. You can find a rundown of proactive accessibility considerations from a recent toolkit here, but it’s also a good idea to consult your school or district’s IT department before implementing any kind of new technology. A step-by-step guide for making online learning accessible is available here, and video accessibility compliance steps can be found here.
5. Device-Specific Technology: In the war of iPads versus Chromebooks versus Androids, honing in on apps, platforms or branded software that are only compatible with one kind of technology is usually a mistake, thanks to the quick turnover of many of these devices. Also, technology that doesn’t work well with others (think older LMS’ that refuse to integrate with other school or classroom software) is not a smart, future-looking option.
Better Option? Interoperable, Device-Agnostic Technology. According to educational experts, the best approach to supporting BYOD for instruction is the “device-agnostic” class. To help smooth out some of the BYOD-related bumps in the classroom, applications like Haiku Deck (presentation software), Tackk (a multimedia scrolling poster), and Snapguide (for creating step-by-step guides) are all offered in iOS, Android, and/or web versions. The latter, for example, uses a browser-based interface to allow students to access the application from any device–regardless of operating system–and use it online without having to worry about software incompatibility issues.
One of the newer entrants to the device-agnostic BYOD market is EXO U, a platform that allows teachers to share information and collaborate with students across multiple operating systems. Shan Ahdoot, CEO of the San Francisco-based firm, says such applications help educators get “everyone on the same page” quickly and effectively without wasting classroom time or IT resources. “The goal is to create a consistent experience from phone to laptop to interactive whiteboard,” says Ahdoot.