As the new school year gets underway, parents and teachers will inevitably look to us for advice about how to help their students take advantage of the many digital resources available to assist with studying, research, and homework. This can seem a daunting task for anyone, but as mentors of digital media, library staff should strive to stay on top of recent developments in educational technology so that we can guide families to the apps, websites, and services that will best fit their needs. Luckily, we aren’t alone in the search for quality apps and websites, as many aids exist to help evaluate, review, and recommend digital resources in this area.
Every year, AASL releases its lists of Best Websites for Teaching and Learning and Best Apps for Teaching and Learning, identifying resources that “foster the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration.” Each year’s list is broken down into helpful categories, and the “Past Lists” links lead to sortable spreadsheets of all the apps or sites that have been recognized. The 2015 lists were released at the end of June, and offer some great up-to-date information to share with teachers and families.
appoLearning recently released a Collections feature, which allows educators to build and share customized lists of apps and websites for specific topics or lessons. appoLearning’s searchable database returns custom collections from users, as well as expert-reviewed resources pertaining to the same topics.
Don’t forget to promote the digital resources offered by your library, too! Many reference database providers have created specialized apps to give patrons quick access to their products both in and out of the library. Gale’s Access My Library (iOS and Android, free) and EBSCOhost’s mobile apps (iOS and Android, free) are some examples of these custom apps. If you’re not sure which of your database vendors provide apps for patron access, take some time to check, and be sure to download and explore the apps yourself.
Digital resources can also be incredibly valuable for special needs students, helping them access information, build skills, and organize and manage time and tasks. Smart Apps for Special Needs reviews apps that can help special needs students in many areas of their lives. ADDitude Magazine also frequently creates lists of apps for both children and adults with ADD or ADHD, available on their website.
Other sites to check out:
- ALSC’s Digital Media Resources, a list of resources focused on technology news and reviews of digital content
- APPitic, a directory of educational apps (iOS only) created by Apple Distinguished Educators
- Best Apps for Kids’ Back to School Apps for Kids (2015 edition), with lists organized by grade level
- Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, which highlights technology that can be used to enhance learning
- Graphite, Common Sense Education’s platform that evaluates digital tools and aligns them with Common Core standards
- School Library Journal’s app reviews
Tara Smith is a teen librarian at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, and is a member of the ALSC Children and Technology Committee.