Evaluating Online Tools and Resources Micro Group

Screenshot of the Diigo tags.

By Ed Latham

Adult educators, especially part-time teachers, are often frustrated that there are so many digital tools and resources available but never enough time to learn which ones may offer positive learning opportunities for their students. Last year, in a new LINCS micro group, we created an evaluation framework that helps teachers to easily review online tools or resources, and to share their evaluations with other teachers. The framework is now ready for adult educators across the country who can join the Micro Group to identify online tools and resources, try them out with their students, evaluate them, and share them with each other first in the Micro Group, and then with other adult education teachers.

What the Micro group Accomplished Last Year

Screenshot of the Diigo tags
Screenshot of the Diigo tags.

Micro Group participants needed a way to store the tools and resources they found on the Internet. We chose an easy tool called Diigo. (Link to short introduction) Using it, participants could quickly and easily find and tag online resources to evaluate. (“Tagging” resources is marking them with keywords so they can be categorized and easily found). As participants reviewed our Diigo collection they found tools or resources they wished to evaluate with a simple evaluation form we had developed that enabled them to share their experiences and recommendations with other teachers, first in the Micro Group, then in LINCS communities, and eventually, everywhere.

Sample of part of the evaluation form
Sample of part of the evaluation form.

When at least two teachers had evaluated a tool or resource we compiled the data and produced and published the evaluations for other teachers to use. This process offered teachers a collection of peer-reviewed resources, and enabled participants in the Micro Group to easily share their experiences using the tools or resources with their students, and their opinions, with other teachers.

The Evaluation

The Micro Group evaluation tool we created includes many important evaluation criteria without, however, making the process cumbersome. We chose the following nine criteria:

  • Usage: How was — or could — the tool or resource be used?
  • Engagement: How engaging is the resource for learners and/or teachers?
  • Ease of Use for Teachers: How easy is the tool or resource for teachers to use?
  • Ease of Use for Students: How easy is the tool or resource for students to use?
  • Challenges: What challenges do you see for teachers using the tool or resource? What solutions or  workarounds do you suggest for these challenges?
  • Suitability: In what kinds of environments can this resource work well?
  • Basic Skills: What basic skills can this tool or resource be effective in building?
  • Work Readiness Skills: What work-related skills might this tool or resource help students to improve?
  • General Skills: What personal skills might students improve in the use of this resource?

Growing and Sharing

Last year, the Micro Group’s purpose was to explore different evaluation methods and create a framework that could easily be used by adult educators. In 2017, beginning in March, we hope to have many more adult education teachers from around the country join our micro group, add to and share our list of digital tools and resources, and evaluate and share the tools and resources with the adult education field. To participate in this rewarding work join the LINCS 2017 Online Tools & Resource Evaluation Micro Group. 

David Rosen, the moderator of the LINCS Technology and Learning group, has offered a very nice set of instructions to join the LINCS site and to then join the Micro Group. Here are his instructions:

Registering for the LINCS Community

  • To create a new account, go to the LINCS Community: https://community.lincs.ed.gov/ and select “Log In / Register” at the top of the page (on the far right in the blue menu ribbon). Then select “Register for a new account”.
  • Complete the “Create An Account” screen (passwords need at least one number, at least one capital letter, and at least one special character). Check the box indicating that you agree to the Terms and Conditions, then click “Submit” at the bottom. An automated email will be sent to the email address you entered, with a link to verify that you’re the same person. Be sure to check your Spam / Junk Mail box if you don’t see it! Until you’ve clicked the link in that email, your account doesn’t exist. Once your email has been verified, you should get a “verification successful” email message.
  • A LINCS staff member reviews every new account request to prevent spammers or anyone else untrustworthy from accessing the Community pages, so before you can use this account it’ll need to be approved. If the account is created during business hours, this will usually happen within an hour or two; but it should never take more than two days. They will email you once your account’s been approved.
  • From then on, you can always login from the LINCS Community page (https://community.lincs.ed.gov/). Once again, select “Log In / Register” at the top of the page. Enter your email address and password, and click “Log In.”
  • Enter a User Name that you’d like others to see in your LINCS Community activities, then select the Send button to save your changes.

Joining a Group

  • Once you are logged in, click the  “Join Groups” button, or “Groups” tab in the blue horizontal navigation bar. You will be directed to a list of groups you can join. Chose the one(s) that interest you and, for each, select “join” to become a member. You may want to start with only one or two groups, and add others later if you wish. In any case, be sure to join the Technology and Learning — soon to be called the Integrating Technology — group and the 2017 Online Tools & Resource Evaluation Micro Group.
  • When you choose a group (or micro group), you will be redirected to that group’s home page. On the right, you have the option to set your Email Subscription.
  • For each group you join, select “Immediate” from the drop down menu. You can always change this to another setting later, to  “12-hour digest” or “24-hour digest”. Then you will get LINCS email less frequently, and with batched messages.
  • Click Submit. Each time someone posts a message, you will receive it in your email.

These steps may make it look complicated but it’s relatively easy. If you have any difficulty, a LINCS staffer can help you if you contact them at https://community.lincs.ed.gov/Contact

Thank you, David, for these detailed instructions. David can be reached at djrosen123@gmail.com

It will be rewarding to explore many online tools and resources with teachers in this new micro group. If you have questions about this exciting opportunity, please contact Ed Latham, the group moderator, at ohgeer@gmail.com.

Ed Latham is a passionate educator who has worked in many capacities with learners of all ages for more than 20 years. In addition to teaching adult learners, he offered professional development to teachers when he was technology integration mentor and specialist for Maine Adult Regional Technology Integration. Technology integration and mathematics are areas to which he applies his boundless energy to improve opportunities for all learners. Additionally, Ed uses his spirit of innovation to create digital tools and systems to help everyone in education gain efficiency and efficacy. See 5squared Consulting.

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