How We Rate and Review

We know that educators (and learners) are faced with an overwhelming array of choices when it comes to learning technologies. That's why we've assembled our expert team and put a lot of effort into developing a rating and review system that distinguishes the best products. Coupled with our filtering and search tools, we can help you surface options that meet your needs. Once you discover products, our comprehensive reviews provide incisive analyses and detailed information to help you decide whether and how to use them.

The editorial team that produces the reviews is made up of educators who are both great writers and deeply familiar with educational technologies. And our inaugural Common Sense Education Certified Educators: Graphite, who write our Field Notes in a voluntary reviewer role, are selected from a highly competitive pool of educator applicants.

Graphite's unbiased ratings and reviews are conducted by expert reviewers and are not influenced by the developers of the products or by our funders. We never receive payments or other consideration for reviewing any product. 

Understanding Our Rating

The Learning Rating is a five-point scale (1 to 5) that indicates learning potential, ranging from Not for Learning to Best for Learning, based on our evaluation along the following Learning Dimensions:

  •  Engagement:

    - Does the product hold learners' interest and make them want to return?

    - Is the user experience well designed and age appropriate?

  •  Pedagogy:

    - (Heaviest weighting) Does the product carry depth of content where learning is central to the experience and substantive, lasting concepts are built?

    - Is the product designed to facilitate transfer of understanding and skills and put the learner in the driver's seat?

  •  Supports:

    - Is feedback appropriate and facilitative, and are there supports for both teachers and different kinds of learners?

The final Learning Rating is based both on the "score" from our rubric and on editorial judgment.

  •  Excellent:

    Really engaging, excellent learning design

  •  Very Good:

    Engaging, very good learning design

  •  Good:

    Pretty engaging, good learning design

  •  Fair:

    Somewhat engaging, OK learning design

  •  Not for learning:

    Not recommended for learning

 

Subjects, Skills, & Standards

Every product review identifies the key subjects and skills that a product facilitates. For each subject and skill, we also highlight the sub-areas that are relevant (e.g., math is sub-tagged for algebra, fractions, etc.). Each subject that is identified also carries information on key standards alignment (Common Core State Standards for ELA/math, other national/state standards for science and social studies). Products are tagged with the most prominent standards that they support. This tagging is intended to help teachers find and cover content tailored to their specific needs. Subjects and skills are chosen to reflect both academic areas as well as 21st century skills for learning, living, and working. They are:

Subjects

Language & Reading

Reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English or other languages

Math

Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus

Science

Physics, astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology

Social Studies

History, geography, government

Arts

Reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English or other languages

Hobbies

Visual arts, dance, theater, music, film

 

Skills

Thinking & reasoning

Logic, strategy, problem-solving, thinking critically and analytically

Creativity

Developing novel solutions, making new creations, innovation

Self-direction:

Motivation, taking initiative, effort, personal growth, learning how to learn

Emotional development

Self-awareness, handling stress, developing resilience, empathy, perspective-taking

Communication

Convey messages effectively using multiple forms of expression

Collaboration

Teamwork, respecting other viewpoints, cooperation, meeting challenges together

Responsibility & ethics

Integrity, respect, embracing differences, learning from consequences

Tech skills

Digital creation, evaluating media, social media, using and applying technology

Health & fitness

Movement, fitness, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, physical and mental health

 

Graphite Review Elements

Pros, Cons, Bottom Line

This section highlights the essential positives, negatives, and summary evaluation that aids busy readers in making a quick decision about a product.

Our Review

A detailed evaluation of each product is the "heart" of the Graphite editorial review, which allows readers to dig deeper and learn more about what and how students learn with the tool, how to extend learning, primary intended population, tips for implementation in the classroom, how learning is assessed, and what kind of research/outcomes exist, if any. In this section, we also highlight standout assets or features of a product that may have particular merit.

How it works

This is a brief synopsis of what the experience is like -- a description of what happens in the course of interacting with the product.

Taken together with the product information, filtering categories, and a visual walkthrough of the experience, the Graphite product review offers a comprehensive compendium of data and analysis on a particular title.

Field Notes

Graphite is for teachers, by teachers. Educators like you rate products for learning potential ("Teacher Rating") and write Field Notes. These are your user reviews and best practices for the learning technology products that have been reviewed by the Common Sense Education editorial team. Field Notes provide teachers' perspectives and tips for implementation in educational settings. We've recruited and certified a volunteer corps of expert educator-reviewers who write Field Notes for most products, but any registered user of Graphite can contribute to Field Notes.

The Field Notes section is also a place where our members can:

  • - Rate products (LEARNING RATING, SETUP TIME)
  • - Provide data on their own use of products
  • - Make recommendations about specific uses (GREAT FOR) and specific audiences (GREAT WITH)
  • - Write lesson plans that involve products

In this way, rigorous Graphite editorial ratings and reviews are complemented by robust recommendations from real teachers.