Written by Andrea Trowell, 2015 Lea(R)n Summer Fellow

LearnPlatform - 2015 Summer Fellow - Andrea Trowell

ndrea is the Library Media Specialist at Underwood GT Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, NC. Her past experiences include teaching in the classroom, serving as a remediation specialist and running a private tutoring business. As part of the Lea(R)n team, she leads focus groups and provides valuable perspective as we continue to enhance LearnTrials.

The current shift from one-size-fits-all teaching to personalized education has encouraged teachers to adopt the blended learning approach. This involves a combination of face-to-face instruction with technology-based engagement. To effectively promote blended learning, teachers should accommodate various learning styles, utilizing tools that maximize each student’s participation and achievement. That means teachers must keep track of each student’s specific needs, which requires a variety of resources.

Resources in blended learning environments include books, videos, curriculum sets, equipment, websites and digital subscriptions. The school librarian can easily catalog and distribute books/equipment as requested. Similarly, a teacher can organize her books by level, interest, or genre. But what about our digital resources? How do we store and manage our edtech tools, so they are easily accessible?

Educators are constantly trying new digital resources while balancing the “old” ones we’ve used for years. (Think…make new friends, but keep the old.) I’m wondering….how can we review and organize our digital resources? We can’t just store them in a handy file cabinet, or can we? Also, how do we most effectively share our digital resources with other educators.

When a group of teachers and librarians were asked about their personal collections of education technology, most said they needed somewhere to store digital resources and improve their overall tech management system. A popular way to access resources is utilizing bookmarks or web tools such as Symbaloo or Diigo. When using these methods, teachers can bookmark links to certain websites in addition to tagging the resource for recall purposes. There is not a single tool that stands out, which reminds me of ed tech usage in general — a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but nothing truly makes an impact.

When educators think about the benefits of a curriculum-aligned, accessible library of digital resources, answers vary from saving time to sharing feedback. To determine best practices for organizing and storing our digital resources, we could look at the characteristics of an effective library. The American Library Association (ALA)’s Highly Effective School Libraries Have a Common Set of Characteristics states that highly effective libraries have:

  • an active instructional program of information literacy integrated into curriculum content, and targeted towards learning curriculum content and skills
  • a strong networked information technology infrastructure that facilitates access to and use of information resources in an and out of school

When creating personal libraries of digital resources, it is imperative that the resources are aligned with standards and targeted towards curriculum content. Second, these curriculum-based resources must be accessible. No matter how you organize digital resources, we must be sure of these two points when selecting games, apps and websites for our toolbox — alignment with curriculum and accessibility.

The LearnTrials platform now includes a personal library, where educators can display products they use, want or need. Various learning tools receive grades based on data-driven insights from our professional learning community. Within schools, across districts and around the country, Lea(R)n facilitates communication between teachers, administrators and their IT support.

Adding resources to your personal library is a straightforward process — while browsing the main product library, select items based on their grades. These represent aggregate scores from all educators on LearnTrials reviewing products with Lea(R)n’s research-backed rubric. The primary factors include Ease of Use, Product Features, Product Content, Technical Merit, Learning Alignment, Student Impact, Teaching Impact, and Professional Development. Because teachers have access to both peer reviews and in-depth insights, products they select will likely fulfill their needs.

I am excited to promote LearnTrials as a resource for educators to evaluate and share digital learning tools! Educators, sign up for free, and discover the best technology products. Join Lea(R)n’s professional learning community today and start submitting feedback on your personal collection of resources.