From Bill: Last month I helped launch Graphite, a great new tool that helps teachers find high-quality Web sites, apps, and other educational technology. Since the launch, our partners at Common Sense Media have been busy adding new features and content. I asked Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer to give an update on the latest changes. Here’s what Jim had to say.
It’s been an exciting time for our team in the few weeks since Graphite debuted at the ISTE education technology conference in San Antonio. More than 100,000 educators are now in the network, and we are rapidly adding content. The feedback we’re getting is inspiring as well: teachers are excited by the ratings and reviews, but even more so by the opportunity to be a part of the community and add their classroom perspectives.
As a former elementary teacher, I can identify with how challenging and time-consuming it is to prepare a classroom at the start of each school year. And with the vast amounts of new ed-tech tools and options, it’s not getting any easier. This challenge was highlighted by a recent study that shows that even though teachers believe ed-tech is essential (not just optional) they use it in their classrooms less than once a week! Surprisingly, the numbers are essentially the same whether these teachers are working in schools with limited computing resources or where every student has a computer. (Forty percent of teachers also report that they spend an hour or more each week looking for ed-tech products to use in their classrooms.)
That’s where Graphite comes in. It’s like a ‘Consumer Reports for ed-tech’ with a rigorous Learning Rating system developed by experts in education, teaching, and child development. Teachers using Graphite can find ed-tech tools covering a broad range of core academic subjects and deeper learning skills, with every product rated and reviewed for student engagement, how well it helps students learn, and the support it offers teachers. Teachers now have access to a host of new content and features:
- Over 500 product ratings and editorial reviews done by education experts.
- More than 1000 ‘Field Notes’ of personal insights and expertise from teachers around the world.
- An easy and collaborative way to share favorite apps, games, and websites with ‘Boards’
- A redesigned website experience to make it more intuitive and easier to use
With the swell in interest from teachers, we are also getting some great questions. Like, how do we plan to engage developers? Developers are vital to the long-term success of Graphite – and, ultimately to the successful application of edtech use in the classroom! By sharing detailed perspectives about “what good looks like”, the feedback developers are getting about what makes an app, game, or website truly engaging and educational is elevating opportunities for developers to be successful and raising the quality bar for all edtech. There’s more to come!
Others have asked how we’re measuring the impact of ed-tech on student outcomes. There is a lot of work to be done in this area, but we are off to a fast start. Specifically, by asking teachers to share their insights via our ‘Field Notes’ we can start to paint a strong picture of which products work for specific student groups. There is more to be done here, but putting teachers in the driver’s seat is the foundation.
It’s our mission at Common Sense Media to help kids, parents, and teachers thrive in today’s 24-7 connected world. With efforts underway to improve connectivity and access to today’s emerging technology in America’s K-12 schools, now is the time to focus on content – getting quality edtech into the hands of enthusiastic teachers and students.
Please join us at @Graphite and check out www.graphite.org and let us know what you think!