question mark(This post is a continuation of our 12 Questions series.  The first post can be viewed here.)

#4  Can my students access these resources?

In addition to accessing content for whole class instruction, some web based solutions also allow students to access content on computers.  This helps teachers to make a connection between whole class instruction and individual student learning.  Some online content providers add increased value by inviting students to access content at home for further review and exploration.  Offline programs may also allow individual student access, but the program must first be installed on each computer. 

If student access is included, consider whether or not the content will still appeal to your students after experiencing it during whole class instruction.  Is the activity engaging and are the questions randomized so students will still feel challenged during subsequent visits?  Or does the program provide enough content options for each topic that the issue of repetitiveness is eliminated?

#5 Do these resources promote teacher involvement and offer flexibility?

Many software programs are designed for individual student use in learning isolation.  A computerized program replaces a teacher’s guidance by assessing students, offering recommended activities, and even adjusting activities to a student’s ability level.  While this type of program at first glance seems like an easy answer to individualized instruction, consider the implications of removing teacher guidance and peer collaboration from the learning process.

Research has shown that technology, specifically instructional software, has been proven most effective when integrated into classroom instruction.  Students who experienced teacher-led standards-based instruction with technology showed higher overall gains than students who experienced the same curricula and technology in an isolated lab setting.  

Teachers have the ability to match computer instruction with the children’s development, the curriculum sequence, and the needs of particular students.  Teachers must be involved, “orchestrators” of technology, rather than quiet observers of students in learning isolation.  Find out whether the digital content you are investing in allows teachers to choose interventions for their students and whether multiple activities with multiple strategies for learning are available for each concept.  Ask if the content includes a strong instructional component and problem solving opportunities beyond skill and drill activities.  Determine whether the digital content is numerous enough and flexible enough to be used for whole class instruction, center time, group work, and individual student remediation or enrichment.

#6 Can student progress be monitored with these resources?

If students are allowed to access content on computers, find out if the content includes individual progress accounts.  Particularly if content will be used for interventions, progress accounts allow teachers to view student scores on activities to determine if students are progressing toward mastery or if additional assistance is necessary.

(This post is the second in a series of four.  Stay tuned for more questions to ask!)