Tips for Evaluating Apps

If you have iPads in your classroom, one of your on-going tasks may be to look for great educational apps. This can be a lot of fun, but it can also be quite daunting. With over 80,000 education apps in the App Store, how can you (quickly) find the best of the best?!

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Here are some helpful tips and questions to ask yourself before getting started.

  1. Have a plan. Before you start looking for apps, think about what you want and why.

What types of apps are you looking for?  

  • First grade math apps?
  • Open-ended or creative apps?
  • Teacher resource apps?
  • Parent communication apps?

How do you plan to use the app in your classroom?

  • Help you teach specific skills (e.g., demonstrate the distributive property or decoding words with long vowels)? Check out our blog post, “Teaching with Apps” for some great instructional tips.
  • Document student work or create digital portfolio pieces? (See our blog post on how to App Smash by using a combination of content apps and open-ended apps here).
  • Provide extra, targeted practice that keeps students engaged? (e.g., independent math fact practice, e-books)
  • More easily communicate with parents?

 

  1. Don’t do it alone. There are many websites dedicated to reviewing apps designed for kids and so these can be a great starting point. Here are just 5 sites we love and why.
  • Balefire Labs: We love Balefire Labs’ use of research to inform its evaluation process. The review criteria used comes directly from research on how kids learn.
  • Common Sense Education (formerly Graphite): In addition to reviewing apps in-house, teachers can also provide their own reviews. The site also offers a variety of educator resources such as teacher-created lesson plans, webinars, and videos.
  • Children’s Technology Review (CTR): Also research-based, CTR’s rating scale takes into account the intent of the app (e.g., designed to teach vs. video game; classroom or home use, etc).
  • ClassTechTips: This is a great resource to find apps and tips for integrating tech in the classroom from former teacher turned Curriculum and EdTech Consultant and Apple Distinguished Educator, Monica Burns.
  • Edsurge: Find a variety of apps and other edtech tools catalogued on this site, learn about upcoming conferences and summits where you can meet with developers, and read important edtech news and tips for integrating tech in your classroom.

 

  1. Use an evaluation rubric. What features are most important to you? (Keep in mind, this may change depending on what you’re looking for.) Take a look at the rating scales used by the app review sites above, or feel free to use this evaluation resource created as part of Teachley Co-Founder, Rachael Labrecque’s dissertation research. Click here to access it.

 

  1. Test the apps. Play through the apps yourself to get a good sense of the experience the app provides. Learn what the app does, doesn’t do, and better understand how you could use the app to supplement your instruction, not just provide extra practice. Importantly, have your students test the apps! You’ll quickly find out whether the apps you’ve selected will maintain your students’ interest. If the app offers progress monitoring, take a look. See what kind of information you can get from your students’ gameplay and consider how that information can inform your classroom instruction.

 

  1.  Evaluate and reflect.
  • How well did the app do what you wanted it do?
  • How well did your students respond to the app? Keep in mind, engagement is just one aspect. How well did the app teach or reinforce concepts? How easy was the app for students to navigate on their own?
  • How well did the app fit with your instruction and intervention needs?
  • What features do you wish the app had but didn’t? Don’t be afraid to reach out to the app developer. We LOVE to hear from teachers using our apps. Your feedback is what helps us to continually improve.

 

What criteria do you use when evaluating apps? Share what’s important to you! Tweet @teachley #evaluatingapps