How I Use It
Unlike most other apps reviewed on Graphite, this app is not for student use but rather for teacher use when planning lessons, units, or even years of curriculum. Our science teachers are familiar with (and really like) the standards and had already consulted printed versions of them, but teachers imagine the app version of the standards will be useful for quick reference. In the middle of planning a lesson and want to loop back to the big picture? Consult the app. Want to give some solid grounding to a comment you're making in a faculty or department meeting? Consult the app. Compared with simply reading the standards on paper, the app also provides convenient ways to visualize how a topic articulates across grade levels, how it connects to other standards, or how it overlaps with Common Core standards such as language arts (great for planning interdisciplinary lessons or units.) If you’re not familiar with the standards, or at least the newest version of them, one of the most important things to appreciate is that the standards link just about everything to an engineering standard. This is great if you are planning STEM units.
Our overall opinion is that having important standards conveniently arranged in an app is a great thing and that the app is useful enough to deserve trying. Having said that, we certainly hope the app continues improving over time. When reviewing this app, I spent the majority of my time using the app on my Moto X Android phone while collaborating with a science teacher who installed the app on her Nexus 7 Android tablet. These Android versions of the app felt like a first draft. The “Resources” section of the app, which is one of the top choices from the main menu, provided curricular resources with imperfect formatting. Some words appeared larger than others, but not in a manner that seemed purposeful or intentional. Some documents looked like PDFs that someone had hastily uploaded without thinking about how difficult they would be to read on a phone or a seven-inch tablet. We found one bad link, too, when we were perusing the Resources section. We hoped to get a lot out of the app’s search feature, but we concluded that the search feature must only be able to search the titles of standards. How else could the terms “computer,” “electricity,” “nervous,” and “system,” when searched for separately, generate no results? Interestingly, when we searched for the word “motion,” we encountered a bug on my Moto X that we did not encounter on the Nexus 7. The Moto X displayed two search results but would not let me click on either. The Nexus 7 permitted us to click on and view both search results. Once the app team improves the readability of its Resources section and provides the app with a more robust search function, we’d love to see them take advantage of social and sharing capacities. It would be great to be able to quickly share a portion of the standards with a planning partner. Even better, why not let teachers upload curriculum and link it to standards?