Evaluating Digital Materials
with Pete Sharma
Do you have to choose a suitable vocabulary app for your students? Select digital materials? Recommend a learning platform for your school? Formally or informally, many teachers and academic managers select and evaluate digital learning materials quite often. On what basis or criteria do we assess these learning materials, whether created by a teacher, an ELT publisher or a tech company?
This course provides a systematic approach to evaluating digital materials, taking participants through the What? Why? Who? and How? of evaluation. Participants assess materials relevant to them, and finish the course with a rubric for future evaluations.
We’ll start by looking at what we mean by ‘evaluation’ and secondly define what we mean by digital materials, including language learning websites, interactive exercises, eWorkbooks and eBooks, apps, Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) software, digital games, the content of virtual worlds, digital assessment tools and learning platforms.
The course aims to bridge the world of theory and practice. We will look at a range of theories of language learning (Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Second Language Acquisition) and explore to what extent these theories inform the design of digital materials. We will look at the concerns of research – what have CALL researchers focused on? Evaluation can be done from a number of perspectives and we will explore the following three approaches: the instructional designer, the language teacher, and finally, the student who uses the material.
This course will finish with a practical list of recommendations: “10 practical tips on evaluating digital materials.” As materials are changing so rapidly, we will focus on the future and examine many exciting (yet scary) developments, including: adaptive learning, voice recognition, virtual and augmented reality. We will see how language teachers need to take an informed view on many controversial developments and stay up to date with the pedagogy in order to continue to evaluate new types of digital materials our learners will be using in the imminent future. The course is ideally suited to the iTDI format of sharing knowledge across the Internet. Why? So often we meet the ‘walled garden effect’ where you only know some materials IF your school uses them, and has subscribed to a particular LMS or bought a certain course book. On this course, participants will be able to learn about all sorts of other digital materials which may be of interest and relevance to their own context.
The course is for teachers, academic managers, ELT authors of digital materials, and teacher trainers interested in evaluation, digital materials, or both.
Live sessions (registered participants only)
- April 7th – course participants only (60 minutes)
- April 14th – course participants only (60 minutes)
- April 21st* – course participants only (60 minutes)
- April 28th – course participants only (60 minutes)
Time: 13:00 – 14:00 UTC – Check your local time here: CONVERT TIME*
*EXCEPT Apr 21st (Easter Sunday): 14:00 – 15:00 UTC
Register now for one of three levels of participation in this course:
Certificate of Distinction
US $169 – Course, Recordings, Handouts, Private Community, Instructor Evaluation, and Private Mentoring.
Certificate of Accomplishment
Certificate of Completion
ScholarshipsAs always, iTDi believes that all teachers deserve the same opportunity to improve themselves. Therefore, a limited number of scholarships will be available for this course. Please apply through our scholarship application.
About the course
“I love this app!”
“I hate it!”
“My students love it!”
We often find ourselves assessing digital materials, but how subjective are we? Can we evaluate digital materials objectively? This course is designed to formally reflect on the criteria on which we evaluate digital learning materials. It provides a systematic approach, taking participants through the What? Why? Who? and How? of evaluation. Participants assess material relevant to them, share the evaluation with others and finish the course with a useful set of tools. If you have to select digital materials for your school or class, this course is for you.
We start with a look at definitions. Firstly: “What is evaluation? And secondly, “What do we mean by digital materials?” Next, we will look at a history of digital materials, from the earliest days of CALL (computer-assisted language learning) through the multimedia age of CD-ROMs and interactive whiteboard software to the current mobile age of tablet and Smartphone apps. Participants will choose which set of materials they will evaluate during the course.
Check out the 1st session recording
We will look at a range of theories of language learning (behaviourism, cognitivism, Second Language Acquisition) and explore to what extent these theories inform the design of digital materials. We will look at the concerns of research – what have CALL researchers focused on? Evaluation can be done from a number of perspectives and we will explore the following three approaches: the instructional designer, the language teacher, and finally, the student who uses the material.
This session will look systematically at the What? Who? Why? and How? of evaluating digital materials. Under ‘How’, we will explore four useful frameworks as follows: Hubbard / Chapelle / Leakey and Reinders & Pegrum. We will see how each framework fits best with evaluating certain types of materials. The session will also present various instruments available to the evaluator, such as: questionnaires, focus groups and observations, considering the pros and cons of each method.
This practical session will bring together the content of the earlier sessions in a list of recommendations: “10 practical tips on evaluating digital materials.” As materials are changing so rapidly, we will focus on the future and examine many exciting (yet scary) developments, including: adaptive learning, voice recognition, Virtual and Augmented reality. We will see how language teachers need to take an informed view on many controversial developments, and stay up to date with the pedagogy in order to continue to evaluate the new types of digital materials our learners will be using in the imminent future.
This 4-week online iTDi Advanced Skills course will bring up to 100 teachers together in our user-friendly iTDi online classroom every Sunday, and then continue throughout the week, sharing, discussing and reflecting in a private but vibrant online community.
As a registered participant, don’t worry if you ever have to miss a class. You’ll receive weekly recordings of each class, full transcripts of the text chat during class, assigned readings and a PDF of the PowerPoint slides. Furthermore, the online community will certainly become a wealth of ideas and information, and it will remain private and online for your use anytime in the future.
Get your professional development certified with iTDi
Participants working toward a Certificate of Completion will be expected to spend about 20 hours on class work. This includes attending all four live sessions (live or through recordings), participating in class forum discussions and completing assigned tasks.
In addition to the requirements for the Certificate of Completion, participants working toward a Certificate of Accomplishment will submit an evaluation project as a final assignment. It will typically focus on a set of publisher-produced digital materials, or teacher-produced materials; a language learning app or a learning platform or indeed any digital material which a participant needs to evaluate in their own professional life.
Participants opting for additional mentoring will receive professional feedback and guidance on creating a digital learning program for a class or school. Participants will be expected to submit a program description, including program goals and intended materials. Mentoring will continue for a further 2 weeks after the end of the course.
About Pete Sharma:
Pete Sharma is a teacher trainer, consultant and ELT author. He works as a pre-sessional lecturer in EAP (English for Academic purposes) at Warwick University, UK. Pete worked for many years in business English as a teacher trainer and materials writer. He is a regular conference presenter at IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) and BESIG (Business English Special Interest Group) conferences and has given plenary talks and keynote speeches at conferences around the world. Pete is the co-author of several books on technology including Blended Learning (2007) and 400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards (2011) in the Macmillan ‘Books for Teachers’ series. His latest e-books as co-author are on ‘apps’ in business English (2013) and How to write for digital media (2014). His latest book is Best practices for Blended Learning (2018). Pete has delivered a previous course for iTDi on Blended Learning. He was the Newsletter Editor of the IATEFL CALL (Computer-aided language learning) Review (2008-2009) and has a Masters in Educational Technology and ELT (English Language Teaching) from Manchester University. Pete’s website can be found at: www.petesharma.com.