When it comes to selecting digital resources for your school, there are a number of things to consider before making a purchase. With so many options available, it is important to make the best purchasing decisions to fit your school’s and district’s needs. Following is a list of tips and questions to ask when selecting resources for your school.
What is the curricular need for your students? What do you hope to accomplish by purchasing digital resources? You must decide whether you want to supplement, replace, or introduce new curriculum.
Do you need a differentiated curriculum? Or reinforcement for what is being taught in the classroom? Are you a 1:1 school looking to use digital textbooks or a learning management system for your students? Do you want to supplement your school library print collection with interactive materials such as databases, video streaming services, and ebooks?
Will the new service replicate, replace, or supplement existing resources? Many states provide access to digital content to schools. Be sure to look at what your state has to offer in terms of free or reduced price options for digital content. Also, check with your textbook vendors, as you might have digital access of which you were not aware.
Are there yearly subscription or hosting fees for this resource that you need to take into account? If so, determine whether your school or district can afford to continue services after the initial year. Do you need to renew your access to the resources each year? Will the teachers and students be likely to continue to utilize the new resources?
What is included with the service? Does the content match your curriculum? Does the resource meet all of your needs, or only some? Is there a broad spectrum of content, or is there a specific and narrow focus? Is the content age-appropriate for your students? Does the resource meet state requirements and standards?
HARDWARE AND INFRASTRUCTURE
What are the hardware and infrastructure needs for this digital resource? Do you need robust wi-fi? Do you have sufficient bandwidth? Is the content housed in your school or in the cloud? Do you need specific devices to utilize the resource? Particular operating systems? Do you have the proper devices available to students? Can the school sustain the needs?
Does the company offer free or paid professional development opportunities for your teachers? What kinds of professional development do your teachers need to utilize the resources? Can you provide the necessary time and trainers for this professional development? Will teachers need ongoing PD in order to be able to make the best use of these resources?
Does the product offer accessibility features to ensure that all students can benefit? Closed captioning? Text-to-speech? Can students and teachers access the resource from home? How? Do you need to set up usernames and passwords? Will it require IP authentication? Or use single sign-on?
ENGAGEMENT AND LEARNING
Regardless of the curricular value of the digital content, students must find it engaging and be able to learn from it for it to be a wise purchasing decision. Most companies recognize that students at different levels benefit from different interfaces based on their developmental needs, but be sure that both the content and the interface are appropriate for your audience.
EASE OF USE
How easy is it for teachers and students to utilize the digital resource in the classroom? Is there support provided for teachers and students as they use the resource? Do students need a user guide to use the resource? Or is it intuitive enough for them to figure out without much direction?
Where relevant, does the resource offer appropriate formative and summative assessment options? How does it report the results to the teacher, students, and parents? Does this resource then provide a reasonable action plan to improve student achievement based on the results?
INTEGRATION WITH EXISTING SYSTEMS
Does the new resource integrate with existing resources? For example, does it offer SSL, third-party sign-in, or integrate with your existing Student Management System? Does it work on your current hardware?
CAN YOU TEST IT OUT?
Before you make the final purchasing decision, it is wise to get a good handle on what you are purchasing. No review can provide you with the insight and information that a 30-day trial can. Does the company offer a free trial? If so, does the company provide support during the trial to answer any questions you might have?
WILL YOUR TEACHERS AND STUDENTS USE IT?
The most important thing to consider when making a decision to purchase digital resources is whether or not your teachers and students will use them. How will you get teachers to use the new resources to ensure they are a valuable purchase? Asking your teachers for input and to participate in the trial of a product can help in this area.
RESOURCES FOR K-12
While an exhaustive list of digital tools would be impossible, below are a sampling of resources for K-12.
Learning Management Systems
■ Adobe Captivate Prime (www.adobe.com/products/captivateprime.html)
■ Blackboard (www.blackboard.com)
■ Canvas (www.canvaslms.com)
■ Edmodo (https://www.edmodo.com/)
■ Edsby (http://edsby.com/)
■ Engrade (https://www.engrade.com/)
■ Gaggle (https://www.gaggle.net/)
■ Google Classroom (www.google.com)
■ Haiku (http://www.haikulearning.com)
■ Itslearning (www.itslearning.com)
■ Moodle (https://moodle.org)
■ Schoology (https://www.schoology.com)
■ Compass Learning (https://compasslearning.com)
■ KnowRe (http://www.knowre.com)
■ Lexia Core 5 (http://www.lexialearning.com/product/core5/)
■ Naiku (http://www.naiku.net)
■ Odysseyware (https://www.odysseyware.com)
■ SpringBoard Digital (http://springboardprogram.collegeboard.org/springboard-digital)
■ Cengage (www.cengagebrain.com)
■ CK12 (http://www.ck12.org)
■ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (www.hmhco.com)
■ Intel Education Study (https://www.study.intel.com)
■ McGraw Hill (http://www.mcgraw-hill.com)
■ Pearson (http://www.pearsonschool.com)
■ 3M Cloud Library (http://www.3m.com/us/library/eBook)
■ Axis360 (http://find.axis360.org)
■ eBrary (www.ebrary.com)
■ Follett Destiny/Follett Shelf (http://follett.com)
■ MackinVIA (https://mackinvia.com)
■ OverDrive (https://www.overdrive.com)
■ ABC-Clio (http://www.abc-clio.com/)
■ EBSCO (https://www.ebsco.com)
■ Elsevier (ScienceDirect) (http://www.elsevier.com)
■ Gale (http://www.cengage.com)
■ InfoBase (http://www.infobasepublishing.com)
■ InfoTrac (www.infotrac.net)
■ JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org)
■ ProQuest (http://www.proquest.com)
■ BrainPop (https://www.brainpop.com)
■ Discovery Education (http://www.discoveryeducation.com)