I’ve just seen an interesting checklist for choosing between competing, similar Web 2.0 tools for teaching with, and I’ve written my own version.
Having a checklist is useful for winnowing down a shortlist, so before I can apply the checklist, I must
a) know what I need the tool to do
b) know that the tool can do it. If it can’t, it won’t be on the shortlist.
So here’s what I need to consider:
2) Is it easy to use? A tool should be a means to student learning, not something the students have to learn. Any tool that is too complicated will become a distraction. For tools for homework use, is there an easy way to track and grade student work?
3) Is it robust or stable enough to use? I can’t use a tool in the classroom, if it has the chance of breaking (or hanging, or just taking forever to load). I also need to know if it will behave differently when more than one person tries to access it at once. If the tool breaks, then it is a distraction, not a teaching aid.
4) Will the tool work under a variety of circumstances? To be functional for a homework assignment, a tool has to be usable on different operating systems, browsers, connection speeds, screen widths, font settings, and other variations. It has to be usable for students whose home systems have a reasonable level of internet security, as well: the tool should be usable with ad-blockers up, pop-ups and cross-site scripting disabled, etc.
5) Is the tool free? Even if a tool is freeware, it’s not free if it comes with spam, or if it uses too much bandwidth to run, or if it creates huge files. If it’s not free, it’s unreasonable for me to assign to my students.