Hi Leecy, and others,
Thanks for bringing Mycareertools.com to our attention. Do you, or others here, know more about it? I skimmed through the website, agree that it seems potentially useful, and noticed that everything appears to be free. That is appealing, however, as the website is a .com it may be a proprietary (commercial) site. The "about" page only tells us that they are in Austin, TX, not who they are, whether they are a for-profit or not-for-profit organization, or what criteria they use for evaluating the free resources on their site. I wonder how they support their work; if they don't have a means of support, will they be around over time? Will they eventually need to create a model that offers at least some services for a user fee? If they are supported, is there a for-profit company behind this? There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it would be helpful to know that this is a site that has as one of its purposes promoting one or more for-profit products. Perhaps this is a clearinghouse of others' free and proprietary resources created by an individual to be helpful, and paid for by that person. That too would be useful to know, but not easy (for me at least) to determine. Anyone know? As I skimmed through the site, I noticed a much longer and laudatory review of a product called Covcel than any of the other GED prep products they list, which makes me wonder if this is a way to promote one proprietary GED software product in particular. Or, perhaps they just like that product for other reasons.
This raises a very important question for me and perhaps for members of these LINCS groups: how do teachers, program administrators, technology coordinators, professional developers, and other adult basic skills, including ESOL/ESL, program practitioners evaluate curriculum products? What are the specific criteria for judging content quality, usability by the learners or teachers it is designed for, affordability if it is proprietary, and other dimensions of the curriculum products or resources you are considering using?
Everyone: how do you evaluate curriculum products, online tools, or collections of free or proprietary resources you are considering using? Do you have a favorite curriculum or course evaluation checklist or rubric that you use in evaluating hard copy or online curriculum, lessons or other learning resources? If so, can you share it here? Do you use it to compare products you are thinking of using? Do you ask other colleagues, perhaps in the LINCS community, what their experience has been using in using a particular product? If possible, do you try out the products with your students for a few weeks or months? Do you compare products, whether free or commercial? Something else?
David J. Rosen
David, I had the same questions.
From my brief exploration, it appears that the services are free, but the content is not. People can take tests and classes, but they cannot reproduce or redistribute them at will, from what I could tell. I find no CC licensing.
I also wondered about funding. This may be a project funded by a sponsor who wants to promote the resources. but that wasn't clear to me, either. It would be nice to know that.
I'll contact the source that sent me the info and post responses here if I find out more. I hope that others here will provide us with more details if, in fact, they have used the tools. Thanks! Leecy
how do you evaluate curriculum products, online tools, or collections of free or proprietary resources you are considering using?
If we consider a hammer in the hands of a young child compared to how that same hammer might be used by a 30 year carpentry veteran, I am confident that most would not blame the quality of the hammer for either the child's performance nor the 30 year veteran's. In a similar way, I can remember some curriculum products that still make my skin crawl in revulsion while I can still remember a learner that found so much success with that same curriculum that was repulsive to me. My evaluation of any tool has to do more with me learning how the tool can help others find success. How does it help people? Which people might benefit from it most and why? How accessible is this tool for everyone in terms of skills needed to engage with it? Probably the most important to me is, "What learning skills, not content, does this curriculum promote?" With some of these answers in place, I feel much better in helping to navigate learners to resources they might find more success with.
You may not be aware there are dozens of brands of hammers produced every year and many get labeled, "The Best ..." and yet, when we have a specific need, we all just grab whatever hammer type tool is available that may best help our situation. If I just need to get the job done, I don't care about the look, feel, warranty, or many of the other metrics the tool may be measured by. If I need to find a tool that I will be depending on for a number of years, I probably will try a number of them, read some reviews of other users and make decisions after some personal experiences with as many as I can get my hands on. With almost every tool I own at home, those tools were either given to me by a friend or purchased after trying the tool or careful study of reviews from users that have tried the tool. No matter the tool, some will like aspects and some will hate aspects of that tool. I value why people value or devalue the tool more than any actual scores, ratings or advertisements.
I approach curriculum tools in this same way.
Ed, you make excellent points. I don't need a reliable, diamond-studded hammer to hang a light picture on my wall. In fact, my thumb on a thumb tack might do the job. Your comments remind me of people who might ask, "Who/what are you?" Hmmm...in relation to what or whom? What context do you want for my response?
For programs that require that all activities be matched to standards, well, as David shared below, resources would need to address those. However, for teachers who just want to give students some practice with online testing, well, standards might not be an issue. If, as with the site I shared, teachers want to specifically give students practice with GED test taking, then it might be wise, as will all online assignments, to find out if they truly represent what they say they do. Do the tests resemble real GED questions? If so, let student enjoy the practice. Thanks for the analogy. :) Leecy
The LINCS Resource Collection has a few documents relevant to evaluating curricula. Here are two examples:
The CCR standards, used in adult basic skills education programs in 48 states, could be one lens through which to evaluate curricula.
These are guidelines to help teachers choose a financial literacy curriculum for their classroom.
To find more guidelines or other documents to help you evaluate curriculum, use the LINCS Search feature and type in key words such as "curriculum evaluation". Please also suggest other rubrics, checklists or other documents that you have used to help you evaluate adult basic skills (including ESOL/ESL) curricula you are considering.
David J. Rosen
Here's another free resource on curriculum evaluation that some may find helpful. Chapter 12: Curriculum Evaluation I found it through a Google search; unfortunately I was not able to find the volume title, author or date in the limited time I had. Perhaps someone else could help with that.
David J. Rosen
Leecy and All,
Thank you for posting this site. I was not previously familiar with it, but it seems to provide another means for our students to access information. I went to the Blog tab and read the post, "25 Benefits of Reading that will change Your Life." It begins, "For many people, and for students, in particular, the last thing they often want to do is take a book and start reading after a long day of classes or a busy working day. Today, we even can see life-long devoted readers turn on Netflix and start binge-watching some series rather than start reading a book. This article is about the benefits, both mentally and physically, of reading."
The Blog ends with "The importance of reading is so well stated in the old saying: The more you read, the more you’ll learn – the more you learn, the more places you’ll go…(Dr. Seuss)" (I have always been a fan of Dr. Suess and have used his books in every level I have taught!)
This certainly helps answer the question students often ask, "Why should I read?"
The continued discussion about evaluating curriculum products does bring up several relevant points about how we make decision about the resources we use in our classrooms. I am a firm believer that curriculum should be aligned to standards. In the CCR Standards that David posted earlier it states on page 2 of the Introduction,
"The importance of college and career readiness for adult students cannot be overstated. Increasingly, students entering the workforce are discovering that they need critical knowledge and skills that are used on a regular basis. They recognize that pursuing a career pathway that pays enough to support a family and provides genuine potential for advancement hinges on being able to perform the complex tasks identified by the CCSS as critical for post secondary success.
However, I also agree with Ed in that, when we find something that works we should use it. So, while there are some quantitative and qualitative ways to evaluate curriculum (see the LINCS publication, Advanced Unit 1: Aligning Curriculum Resources With Standards), it is not reasonable or feasible to formally evaluate everything we use. Sometimes we simply base the value of a curriculum or resource on the fact that our students have access to it, our students will use it, and our students are making level gains.
So, I believe my careertools.com is a useful resource for our students.
Let's keep this discussion going!
I have just received a response to several questions I posed to Chris Gregory, co-founder of MyCareerTools.com.
1. Who sponsors you? How are you funded?
2. Are all of your resources free to users?
3. How reliable are your tests and courses? Are you supported by any
Response from Chris
All the lessons and practice test published on MyCareerTools.com are free to our web visitors.
These lessons and practice tests come from the Covcel GED Prep course.
The Covcel GED Prep Course is designed by master teachers and Ph.D. students from top universities. Hundreds of students have passed the GED test thanks to Covcel.
In exchange for using Covcel’s learning materials, MyCareerTools publishes information about Covcel’s offering (we publish an extensive review of the Covcel GED prep course) and helps answering students’ questions about this course.
We believe that GED prep is a long-term process. The initial interest in GED Prep is often just exploration. Many users need time to figure out if they want to or can commit to getting the GED Diploma.
Free prep on MyCareerTools.com gives people the chance to learn what it takes to pass the GED test.
Thought I would share the info. Leecy
Thank you Leecy! I actually emailed Chris yesterday, too. Great minds ....
:)))) Indeed, Jeri! Leecy