I spend a lot of time on Twitter (you can follow me @heartofsol), keeping an eye out for any resources that really catch my eye. Not everything does, but those that do, fit a particular criteria of mine. I’d like to share my process, and hopefully encourage you to develop one that works for you.
Any new resource should aim to save the user either time or effort, preferably both. Resources should also add value. I firmly believe that for any resource to be useful, it must offer a benefit of some kind. Saving time is a big incentive, as is presenting information in a different way (allowing more students to access it). And, of course, individual teachers will have their own ideas as to what benefits them.
Far too many times, I have seen a resource being suggested that offers no real advantage over a current way of working. If something is to be used regularly, then ultimately, it really should make things easier. If it doesn’t, then why on earth would anyone want to try it? Some resources’ benefits can be seen immediately, but some may need more time, training and experience before their true value is seen. And of course, teachers should give these resources a fair chance, too.
There are three main questions I ask of any resource:[checklist]
- Does it improve the current way of doing something?
- Does it add anything new for anyone?
- Is it appropriate for the task intended?
Also, any resource should not only add something new, but must also do everything as well as whatever processes it is replacing. It’s a tough remit, but I think necessary for it to be a success. We know how little time is actually available to teachers, and the right resources can make a real difference. Asking these questions will also make it easier for them to be adopted by the rest of the staff.
In some cases, I can imagine using a pencil and some paper will be a better option than using an iPad. There is nothing wrong with either, as long as the right tool is chosen for the right job. Again, I have seen many teachers use ICT for the sake of ICT – and very soon after, all that technology ends up gathering dust in a cupboard. I’m sure you have heard of some examples. If in doubt, ask yourself the three questions at the top – let them act as filters, to help you quickly decide if you should use them or not. If you have the chance, certainly try them – you might be pleasantly surprised.
It is also good to realise these resources might not suit everyone – but that’s OK. But, try to keep an open mind! There are many different types of resources, and they can be used in a myriad of ways. If one resource doesn’t work or benefit you, no problem – there is probably something else that will! In fact, after a while, there is every chance that a new alternative, offering an even better service will be available. Don’t be afraid to drop what you were using, and try another option.
Resources should also be as accessible to as many people as possible. Staff (teachers, admin, teaching assistants, and so on) and students should both benefit from any suggestions. After all, if they help the adult in some way, then there is no reason why the child shouldn’t also gain something. On a similar note, children themselves might have one or two suggestions for you – make sure you tap into that resource!
There are some other considerations, too. Resources should be flexible, and be useful for as many reasons as possible. They should be customisable, as well. Most resources should play nice with resources you already ave access too, and embed everywhere. They should also be easy to share with anyone. They should be accessible from anywhere, and any device. They should be platform agnostic. Signing up for creating accounts should be a choice, not a requirement. They should be free. Any outcome produced should be downloadable and transferable.
These are high standards indeed. There are so many choices available, that it is easy to make the “wrong” choice. Try applying these suggestions to resources you already use (or even ones that have been suggested to you) – and start exploring other options. It is unlikely that one app can meet all these considerations – but the more they do, the more likely it will be really useful.
Are there any more stipulations and conditions that should be asked? How do you decide if a resource is worth using and sharing? Do you have another way of deciding whether to use a resource or not?