So How DOES Graphite Select and Review Products?

Come behind the curtain for an exclusive sneak peak

September 19, 2013
CATEGORIES Common Sense Resources

Editor's Note: This article refers to Graphite, the former name of this website.

Two questions our editorial team receives often on Graphite are:

1) How do you select products to review?


2) What's your process for rating and reviewing?

We've put many processes and systems in place for Graphite so that product selection and rating and reviewing are done with a consistent rigor. In the spririt of transparency, let us share key aspects of our process with you here.

1) How we choose which products to rate and review

We've assembled a team of highy skilled educators and edtech specialists who review and edit products for Graphite. This formidable team takes the following steps as they select which products go on Graphite. They:

  • conduct weekly research to determine what's hot, what's not, what's promising.

  • solicit product suggestions from Graphite and non-Graphite educators.

  • weigh a number of variables to arrive at an overall product composition that:

-spans PreK-12, with a concentration on upper-elementary and middle school products.

-covers different media types (apps, websites, games, digital curricula) with an emphasis on apps and websites.  

-addresses key subjects/skills -- ELA and math in particular, but also 21st-century skills.                 

-emphasizes our philosophy of learning, which privileges critical thinking, creativity, and depth of content.  

-highlights products that are trending as well as those that are hidden gems.

In the future, we plan to add "coming soon" products on Graphite. Teachers will be able to add field notes for these products -- even before Common Sense adds its review. For now, teachers and developers can send product suggestions our way.

2) What's our process for rating and reviewing

Our rating and review process has taken a LONG TIME to create. For a year and a half, our team interviewed field experts and surveyed literature on learning design and the emerging field of edtech. Then we created a 15+ item rubric that captured the critera we determined were most important to evaluating a product for learning potential. Those 15+ items fell across these three dimensions:

  • Engagement: Highly engrossing for students. They'll want to play or use it again. 

  • Learning Approach: Has depth of content and learning is central. Lasting concepts are built and skills are transferrable. Student feels empowered.

  • Support: Feedback is useful. Extension materials are well done; they're aimed at different types of learners as well as supporting adults.

After creating our rating rubric, we took another year to tweak it with feedback from teachers and academics, and to calibrate scoring so it was consistent. The written part of the review as well as the other fields on any review page were arrived at by surveying and interviewing teachers. We learned which items were most important to them and which ones they couldn't do without.

In summary, every product that we rate and review is scored on all 15+ items and reviewed by 2-3 team members. As with any rating and review site, there's a lot of debate in the instances when reviewers and editors have different ratings or opinions. Really, that's the fun!

Still have more questions? Check out our FAQ.