5. As schools turn to apps, games, and videos for instruction, clearinghouses for educational apps emerge.
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The sheer volume of new learning apps being created every day poses a key challenge for educators looking to teach with mobile devices, as many teachers say they don’t have time to find and evaluate the best apps for their classrooms. But a number of new online services have sprung up in the last year to help.
One of the biggest is Graphite, a free online portal to help educators from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade find, use, and share the best digital apps, games, and websites for their students.
Created by Common Sense Media with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the service contains objective ratings of apps and other digital learning resources from professional reviewers, along with reviews from dozens of “Graphite Educators,” teachers who are hand-picked by Common Sense Media.
Users can search for reviews of resources by subject, grade level, cost (free, “freemium,” or paid), and resource type (app, game, or website). An option at the top of the page, called “Top Picks,” reveals the best-reviewed resources on the site.
Graphite launched in June with about 1,500 reviewed apps, and within three years, its database “will easily grow to 5,000 apps,” said Common Sense Media’s Mike Lorion.
Other, similar “clearinghouses” for educational apps, games, and learning objects that launched in the last year include:
LearnBIG, which provides access to more than 14,000 online educational resources for students of all ages— including pre-kindergarten, K-12, and continuing learners—in one easily searchable location, its creators say. LearnBIG curates digital resources from around the web, such as websites, apps, games, courses, and videos. The website is community-reviewed by parents, teachers, and learners, and its format provides an easy way for users to search, filter, and compare results by subject, grade level, platform, and popularity.
OpenEd, which gives educators and parents a searchable catalog of more than 250,000 teacher-curated online resources to enhance lesson plans and help K-12 students with their work in class or at home. While these resources can be used from any learning management system, OpenEd also provides its own free LMS, allowing teachers who sign up for a free account to create courses with multiple topics while using the website’s “recommendation engine” to find the best relevant material available. Users also can create a “Playlist” of videos that can be shared with students, parents, or colleagues.
Activate Instruction, whose goal is to “build an open system, similar to Wikipedia, to help put resources and curriculum in one place that any teacher can use,” said Lane Rankin, CEO of Illuminate Education, which created the website with input from the Summit Public Schools in California. Using Activate Instruction, teachers can browse, search, rate, add, share, and organize their favorite Common Core-aligned resources into playlists for students. Parents and students can follow sets of resources that teachers have prescribed, or search for the ones they like best. And school districts can foster the sharing of best practices, while also aligning their instruction with the Common Core standards, free of charge, the site’s creators say.
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