I recently had the opportunity to provide feedback for a large educational software company on two prototypes for an app designed for English teachers. It was an interesting way to spend an hour and I got a nice gift certificate to Amazon out of the deal.
Without saying much about the idea (since it is not mine to share), I’ll say that the app was geared toward helping teachers plan curriculum with attention to each standard. Inherent in the design was that teachers would select lesson plans from a menu of pre-created materials. This struck me because most teachers I know do not use many pre-created materials.
I found myself explaining that I occasionally use materials out of a textbook or off the internet. More often, I might borrow something from another teacher. In all of those cases, I usually adapt such materials for my particular group of students, my own delivery style, and other factors, such as the amount of time I want to allot to the lesson or activity.
The feedback I ended up giving was that teachers need anything that can help us organize ourselves and our students’ learning better. When it comes to curriculum, we want access to good resources that respond to our students’ needs and fit into our overall curriculum focus but we need flexibility.
User-friendly ways of tracking and sharing information, materials, lessons taught, observations, and assessment data could be very helpful and desirable for teachers. The best apps generally increase the user’s autonomy and efficency—like the app that tells you when the next train is coming, allowing you to make a more informed decision about where to be, possibly freeing you up for 20 minutes while you would otherwise have been waiting for a train. Online gradebooks can act like this too. I have a few app ideas of my own I may pursue at some point.
Needless to say I was a little disappointed when I realized that the designers assumed teachers would want to build their curricula with ready-made materials. Am I off-base? Is that appealing to anyone?
[image credit: thacherschool.org]