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12 Questions to Ask

Before Investing in Digital Content

According to research, stu- dents whose teachers use technology effectively in the classroom have higher test scores than students

whose teachers do not.

So schools purchase projectors, interactive whiteboards, response systems, computers, and tablets with the goal of using technology to reach 21st century learners and engage students.

But as schools begin implemen- tations, administrators discover that simply placing hardware in classrooms does not raise student achievement. Teachers need help using this technology effective- ly. And the primary assistance teachers need to use technology effectively is access to high quality digital content.

Unfortunately, most schools ap- proach digital content as an un- necessary “extra” aſter they have spent tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on technology hardware. Teachers are typically asked to cre- ate or find their own content.

Tis is equivalent to providing teachers with a DVD player but refusing to buy them DVDs and instead asking them to create their

own DVDs or to search the internet for free downloads. Seems like a stretch, but for some teachers, the task of finding or creating their own content is as difficult as creat- ing your own DVD.

“Free content” is not a viable long-term solution.

SMART Exchange, Promethean Planet, mimio Connect and the eInstruction community are great places to start searching for content to teach effectively with interactive technologies; however, content on these sites can be difficult to siſt through and questionable in qual- ity. Teachers will need resources in addition to the user generated content available in these libraries.

In fact, 88% of educators said they would use IWBs, or would use their existing IWBs more oſten, if more digital content were available according to the “K-12 Technology Tools and Trends 2009” report pro- duced by Simba Information and Market Data Retrieval (MDR).

Similarly, laptops and tablets can be effective tools for individual- ized instruction, but the hardware is only as useful as the content it presents. Teachers can spend hours online searching for free interactive content when search time could be better spent planning effective lessons utilizing the content.

Classrooms with tablets typically turn to apps as their sole source for content. Apps are great for schools with limited bandwidth who need their students to be able to access content without an inter- net connection. Tey are useful for students who are allowed to take their devices home but their home has no internet connection. Tey are relevant in special education settings for students with highly specialized needs.

However, relying solely on apps for your content pre- sents a serious challenge.

Free apps are not truly free. Graph- ic artists and programmers spend countless hours designing and cre- ating a single app. Tat is why very few apps are truly free.

Programmers make money on “free” apps in one of two ways. Tey release a free version that contains ads. Tough the ads are more regulated for the iPad than they are for Android, it is never the best solution to have a child playing a game with a rotating banner ad in their face the entire time.

Te other option for programmers to make money from “free” apps is by releasing a lite version. Lite versions give users access to a por-


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