Guest Post: Use @edshelf to Sift Through the Overwhelming Number of Technology for Teachers

May 23, 2013
Have you ever looked through the education category of the iTunes App Store and felt both overwhelmed with all the choices and underwhelmed with those same choices? That’s how I’ve felt. Many teachers have told us the same thing too. That is one of the main frustrations we at edshelf set out to solve.
To do this, we interviewed, observed, and shadowed lots of teachers. In one classroom, I watched a middle school teacher move three students to the back of the room. One was assigned the sole computer in the room. He was given a remedial math program to play with because he was behind the rest of the class.
The other two were given a shared exercise on advanced math concepts because they were so far ahead. Then the teacher continued her lesson using a combination of her whiteboard and Google Docs displayed via a digital projector. At one point, right in the middle of her lesson, she didn’t bother to lower the screen and just projected Google Docs over a whiteboard full of diagrams. She did this between breaking up a pair of students who were talking and answering a student who had raised his hand.
That observation told me two things. Technology can be a useful tool for differentiation. And in the midst of a lesson, teachers can get so busy that they won’t fuss with technology if it doesn’t add any significant value. Her hands were full enough already.
You may be reading this and thinking, “Well, duh.” For me, it was a simple yet powerful insight. In the classroom, teaching is the most important thing. Not technology. Technology is just a tool. And like any tool, technology can be powerful when the right technology is used correctly. Otherwise, it should get out of the way and let teaching happen.
Odd as it may sound, this is one of the motivations for edshelf. With so many tools out there, why should you, a busy teacher, sift through so much dirt just to find a few gems? I’m not just talking about a pile of dirt either. It’s more like a mountain of dirt.
For example, did you know there are currently around 90,000 apps in the education category for iPhones and iPads? And over 40,000 for Android devices? That doesn’t include apps in other categories that teachers use. Nor websites. Oh the multitude of educational websites! We estimate that number to be in the tens of thousands.
That’s a lot of dirt to sift.
Instead, we want to take that burden and point you to tools that have been proven by other teachers. An algorithm can’t tell you which tool is best for your classroom. But the combined knowledge of other teachers can. That’s the power of teacher-created collections such as Michael Fricano’s “Whats on my MacBook“, Joan Young’s “My tools for 4th grade“, and Samantha Thomas’ “My Assistive Technology Applications“. They are essentially curating tools for teachers.
We combine this info with teacher-submitted ratings & reviews and some other relevant factors to come up with an overall rank. Basically, if a tool is popular on edshelf, it is because it is popular with teachers. And thankfully, there are enough teachers and administrators at the cutting edge of technology, like TJ here, who are checking out new tools and curating them.
So let edshelf handle the mundane chore of sifting through the overwhelming world of technology. Let us harness the experiences of teachers so the underwhelming choices fall to the bottom and the proven tools shine through the top. Let us do that for you, so you can get back to your students and focus on doing what you do best.