Evaluating technology in the classroom

Sedef Koç

How should teachers assess which apps to use in class? Elementary school teacher and Kid’s Box product champion Sedef Koç offers some advice.

When teachers plan lessons using technology, and are trying to find the right apps to use in the classroom, there are three questions they should be asking themselves: “What works?”, “What doesn’t?” and “Why?”

That, at least, was the conclusion drawn by Pepperdine University in a three-term study in 2010 to assess the iPad’s potential in the education sector. Research conducted by the European Commission in 2012 also suggests that teachers’ personal confidence with technology is an important factor in the successful use of iPads in the classroom; influencing the frequency with which teachers use technology-based activities. (European Commission staff working paper: Survey of Schools: ICT in Education)

What works?
• Integrating the apps into the course curriculum
• Attaching them to specific learning outcomes
• Using them purposefully

What doesn’t?
• Using relevant apps without making clear to students why they are using them or what they should get out of using them

• Students are paying to learn, not to use interesting apps

• Focus group feedback from students:

“I think we were never properly taught to use the iPad to improve our learning.”

“[the] iPad was used ineffectively due to lack of services including video, scripts, and java. It was not used for class. Just entertainment and reading.”

Both knowledge of apps as well as frequent practice are vital factors in the successful integration of ICT. Evaluation of the applications and tools is a very important stage in the process of determining which technology to use. If information about this technology is made available to teachers, the selection and integration process will become easier.

Brendan Wightman, a Cambridge trainer experienced in the field of technology integration, suggests that there are a number of common factors to be considered in evaluating software and hardware tools. Cost is usually the first priority when evaluating an ICT tool, and is certainly a key consideration in the education sector. For software tools, real-time availability is also important. The ability to work offline must also be considered, as internet access may not always be available. These factors all influence the decision whether or not to use the tool inside or outside the classroom. Technical aspects must also be considered, such as the operating system required, or if the tool works independently of other hardware. The teacher must also judge whether the material is appropriate for their students’ needs.

Software logistical evaluation framework

Software logistical evaluation framework

ICT tools must, of course, also be evaluated pedagogically too. Presentation tools can be used for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Collaborative ICT tools help each language learner involved in a common task to demonstrate their expertise by achieving academic aims. The aim in using such tools is ‘intentional group processes plus software to support them’. EFL teachers must be creative while designing a technology based course, so the applications that are selected also must reflect this strategy. Management and archiving of the ICT tools and the products that are created should be well organized and practical for both teachers and students alike.

ICT tools are a new and exciting way of calibrating, managing and matching the targeted language skills as well as the products created by the students, and with effective evaluation you can ensure that you are choosing the most effective aids for your students.

Software pedagogical evaluation framework

Software pedagogical evaluation framework

You can download the evaluation forms here:

Software logistical and hardware evaluation framework

Software pedagogical evaluation framework

What do you consider when choosing ICT tools to use in the classroom? Add your suggestions in the comments below.

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