To evaluate the bonanza of apps, games, and websites that claim to have educational value, Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization best known for rating commercial media for age-level appropriateness, has developed a new rating system called Graphite.
The site provides ratings of products in three categories: pedagogy, engagement, and support. Pedagogy is the highest weighted category, and is based on the depth and quality of content and how well it's integrated into the mechanics of the reviewed game or website. The highest rated games require players to think critically about how to progress, and help build skills that are transferable. The engagement category measures how well the game grabs and keeps players' attention, and the support category refers to the quality of tools the product offers to help learners when they get stuck. Support also includes tools for parents or teachers so they can help a learner and gets higher marks if it offers content in a variety of ways, catering to different types of learners. Some examples might be clear tutorials or content offered with both visuals and text.
Each review includes two ratings, one by Common Sense Media editorial staff using a fixed rubric and editorial discretion, and another generated by teachers themselves. Some of those teachers are certified early on by Common Sense Media and given special training in the rating measures. Other educators can offer their own rating, along with field notes on what they like and don’t like about the tool. They can offer tips about how they used it and whether they’d recommend it.
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The reviews also include which standards the game or website meets (not necessarily what the developer claims), and a list of the learning skills it supports, including social and emotional learning. It offers suggestions for how the tool might best be used, technical notes and whether it has an effective teacher dashboard. There is also a short written description of the tool written by the editorial team.