Before downloading an application for your students to use in the classroom, it is important to evaluate that application for its appropriateness within the school setting. During FETC 2016, I had the opportunity to listen to a session on how to evaluate applications by Dr. Kristy Sailors. Through this session and my own experience evaluating the products on the exhibit floor, I have designed 7 steps in evaluating whether an application is appropriate for schools.
- Compare the price of the application and the size of the application to other products approved by your school and/or district. Does it fit into your school’s budget? Will it take up a lot of space on your tablet or other devices?
- Review the ratings on the App Store (check Google and Apple stores) as well as other websites. The application may have already been reviewed by other educators. Scroll past the top couple comments as these may have been created by employees of the developer.
- Decide what age group are going to have access to the application and keep that in mind throughout the next few steps. The age rating in the application stores are set by the developer and may not align to your school’s standards.
- Review the general user policy for information on in-application purchases and non-static advertisements. Can the students purchase items through the application? How are the advertisements viewed? Does the student have to click a little ‘x’ in the corner to get back to the application? Do the advertisements change or stay the same? What sort of advertisements can you expect to see?
- Check for search bars and chat rooms. If you can search within application, do some keyword searches to see what inappropriate material may come up. This can be in user generated content, such as comments, or other content designed for older students. Avoid chat rooms, even in protected areas.
- If the application is a game, play through the game at all levels if possible. Be aware that content may change as the student reaches a higher level.
Once you have completed these steps you can feel confident in approaching your principal or leadership about the application. Further along in my research, I will be looking at how to evaluate applications for their effectiveness in your classroom and their benefit to student learning.