I am blogging about Common Sense Media’s Graphite affinity space to fulfill a requirement for an online “Games and Learning” course I am attending at the University of Colorado Denver. By joining this online community, I hope to come to a better understanding of the interactions that occur in such a space, as well as the tools that are made available to teachers in such a community. This is the first in a series of posts where I will share my adventures with Graphite.com.
The primary reason I selected graphite as my project space is for its content. I have little experience with games as Learning tools. I, therefore, require a good, solid overview of games in education and which tools are available. Hence, I require an affinity space that will expose me to what educators are thinking and doing with games and learning and Graphite appears to be that space.
Creating my free account was a breeze and to my amazement, the space is actually free. Many online educational sites advertise that they are free but often require that account holders upgrade to a paid account in order to gain access to any but the most rudimentary tools. Again, this is not the case with Graphite, which is a very positive sign.
When I entered the space I was met with a slick, professional site that is nicely organized. The interface is quite intuitive which makes navigation effortless. I watched one of the short video tutorials that Graphite offers in order to bolster my confidence and save time, although this was probably unnecessary.
The community is made up of educators and offers a wide variety of time-saving artifacts including apps, games, websites and digital curricula. The artifacts are reviewed by expert editors that test the products for learning potential. Teachers also offer their opinions on the items and explain how they used them, as well as how well they worked in the classroom. Teacher reviews are strongly encouraged, as those that administer the site clearly state that it is teachers who should shape the site through their feedback. Some of the teachers who are featured in short video clips claim that Graphite is a time and money saver, as it saves them from scouring the net for such tools. Included in the description of each item is the general purchase price, as well as the cost of any in-app purchases, although I found this to be somewhat unclear in several items I viewed.
In my former life, I was a telecom engineer/construction manager and organization was vital to the success of the large projects I managed. Hence, over the years I became a bit obsessed with organization and Graphite’s layout and organizational tools exceed even my demanding standards. The core tool for users to organize content is through the use of boards, which are created under the user’s profile tab and can be easily edited. The privacy settings for boards allow members to make their boards public or private. I effortlessly created two boards where I began to collect items that I wished to save for later use or evaluation. Graphite offers the educator an unbelievable variety of tools including lesson plan generators and advice. So what’s next? Become more familiar with this space and play some of the great games that I saved to Robert’s ESL Board.