Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Exploring Apps & Websites with Graphite

In our office, we tend to get this question a lot:  "So, what apps should I use on <insert hardware here>?" That's a pretty complicated question.   What, ultimately, do you want students to learn by using the app(s)?  Are you trying to target specific standards or objectives?  How much time do you have (instuctionally) to dedicate to this activity, both before and during?  Does this need to be something web-based or will you be installing it onto a device?  How much money are you willing to spend?  
A great source of information when looking for classroom apps and websites is Graphite (http://www.graphite.org), from Common Sense Media.  Graphite is a website that provides reviews and ratings on apps, websites, and games.  It's searchable by grade level, content area, price, platform, and Common Core State Standard.  And the best thing about it? The reviews and ratings are done by educators for educators.   

When rated and reviewed on Graphite, teachers can get a quick snapshot about pros and cons, engagement, pedagogy, and support.  In addition, the detailed review explains what the app is or does, whether or not it's good for learning, and how teachers can use it (in addition to other helpful information like which skills it builds, what types of learners would benefit from using it, set-up times, and tech tips).  

Anyone can search or use Graphite without a user account, but when you create an account (free), there are additional benefits.  
  1. You can create "Boards," which are saved collections of reviewed apps and websites.  Boards are public, so you can create a board of your favorite reading apps to share with your PLC or colleagues.
  2. You can write your own field notes.  If you find an app or website that you've used with students, you can add your own comments to the existing review.  These can be very helpful, especially as your perspective may or may not align with the reviewer's take on the app.
  3. You can also create "App Flows," which are basically lesson plans that you share on the site.  App Flows take you beyond the basics of a single app into a practical way to use the app in a lesson or unit.
  4. You can follow other educators who review things that you find helpful or interesting.
In Cherry Creek, we've had quite a few teachers contribute content to Graphite.  In fact, some of them are now Graphite Certified Educators!  If you're interested in becoming a Certified Educator for Graphite, you can find more information on their website.  

Graphite is constantly adding more reviews to their site, and while you can get ratings in the iTunes store for iOS apps, the Chrome Web Store for Chrome apps, or Google Play for Education for Android apps, they are nowhere near as detailed or helpful as the information you can find on Graphite.  Graphite keeps reviews for all platforms in one place and keeps the focus on learning.

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