One of my professional development opportunities this summer was to attend the Innovative Education Colorado conference at Copper Mountain. This was a three-day learning extravaganza designed to pack my brain full with new ideas. I attended numerous sessions and found a ton of inspiration. One session in particular taught me about a tool I will be sharing with my teachers this fall: Common Sense Media (CSM). This is an independent, non-profit organization that provides resources to help parents and educators teach kids how to use technology and media safely and productively. According to the presenter, Brian Dino, who works for CSM and Denver Public Schools, the average U.S. student spends 53 hours a week in front of a television or computer screen. That’s more than a full-time job! Our children need guidance and positive modeling to help them navigate the deep end of the internet. CSM offers tools to do just that.
While you may already be familiar with the free Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum provided by CSM, you might not be aware of Graphite, the platform created to provide parents and teachers with unbiased reviews of apps, games, and websites. CSM uses a rubric that evaluates these tools according to their learning potential, rating each product in terms of engagement, pedagogy, and support.
If a student shares a new app they’ve discovered and you want to know whether the app is educational, go to the Graphite website and search for the app under “Reviews and Ratings.” In need of a fun app to motivate students? Graphite allows users to search by subject, level, cost, and type. Reviewed products are also mapped to the Common Core Standards to help users focus on particular curricular areas. The site also includes reviews from teachers who have actually used the product in the classroom, as well as suggestions of how to incorporate the tool into lessons.
Be sure to download the free Common Sense Media App as well. It provides reviews and ratings for music, games, apps, websites, movies, TV, and books for educators on the go. In the “My Kids” section of the app, users can click on “Add Kid” and enter a child’s name and age and get recommendations geared specifically for that child, based on age and gender. I plan to use this for good book recommendations for the library (I often struggle to find good “boy” books), as well as websites to include on the library website. The reviews contain a wealth of information in clearly labeled sections, including: “What parents need to know,” “What’s it about?”, “Is it any good?”, “What kids can learn,” and “Families can talk about.”
Common Sense Media’s website and app offer an invaluable curation service to help librarians navigate the digital tools available to us. Use CSM to find great resources you can recommend to your teachers, students, and parents. Share it in your faculty meetings and at Back-to-School night, too.
Krista Brakhage is a teacher librarian at Poudre High School, Fort Collins, CO.
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