Suppose a math teacher is looking for a web site that will help her class learn about fractions. Where should she start her search? How would she know whether to use Quizlet or the Khan Academy? She can ask her colleagues, but their recommendations might not fit her teaching style or her students’ needs. She will waste a lot of time sorting through the options.
This isn’t a theoretical problem. I’ve heard from teachers who described just this kind of situation. When it comes to finding high-quality education technology, most teachers are on their own.
That’s not fair to teachers or students, and it’s holding back progress in our schools.
I’m very optimistic about the potential of technology to transform education and help every teacher and student excel. Melinda and I meet regularly with a team of experts to review the latest exciting innovations in educational technology, everything from video games that help students learn algebra to lectures they can watch online. There’s a lot of amazing work going on, but teachers need more support to understand what’s out there, what works, and how to use it.
I’m excited to launch a new free product called Graphite in collaboration with Common Sense Media. Graphite will focus initially on ratings and reviews for educational web sites, apps, and services. A staff of experienced educators will offer their own editorial reviews. We’re also building an active community of teachers who are using these products and sharing their own opinions. The video above explains more about how Graphite will work.
Common Sense Media is an incredible partner that is leading this effort. They have a lot of experience in ratings and reviews and are already a trusted source for parents who want information about movies, video games, and TV shows. Now they are using their expertise to make Graphite a comprehensive, unbiased advisor for education technology.
I hope a lot of teachers will join in by going to Graphite and signing up. Although the site is still a work in progress (or in beta, as we say in the software business), it’s now open to teachers who want to read the reviews or submit their own comments.
In addition to benefiting teachers and students, Graphite can help strengthen the market for educational technology. Right now, a lot of developers have a hard time getting feedback on their products from teachers and students. If we get this right, Graphite will make it easier for these developers to tailor their products to their customers’ needs.
Of course, no technology can substitute for the work that teachers and students do together in the classroom. The computers I used in school changed my life, but they couldn’t replace the great teachers I had. I hope that by making it easier for educators to find the tools they want, Graphite will help teachers and students go out and do great things.