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I'd say I have a fairly good grasp over what education technology resources are available out there -- what's new, what's free, what's interesting. But as I haven't been in the classroom in four years, I try to turn to teachers to find out what's useful. There's a wealth of online educational resources, and new or upgraded tools -- edu-specific and otherwise -- are released daily. It's a lot of information to wade through, and so I'd argue that finding people whose "shares" and "likes" and posts you trust will become increasingly important.

One of my favorite sites for a curated list of useful resources is Richard Byrne's blog Free Technology for Teachers. Byrne's curation is impressive. He researches then posts around 25 resources a week, all on top of his full-time work as a high school social studies teacher.

Over three years and 3800 posts, Byrne's work on Free Technology for Teachers has been an extraordinary demonstration of the importance -- the impulse and perhaps even the ethical obligation -- of educators' resource-sharing. As Byrne notes, "We're the one's that really know what happens in classrooms."

The Criteria for Choosing Ed-Tech Topics and Resources

Byrne says his criteria for choosing topics to blog about are "fairly simple": ease of use, survivability of the resource, and existence/type of advertising. "Anything that takes more than ten minutes to feel comfortable with, I generally don't write about," he says. "I feel like if I, someone who spends 30+ hours a week using web-based programs, can't figure out a new service/ program quickly then teachers who are new to using technology in education, aren't likely to feel comfortable using that service/program. If a teacher isn't comfortable using a program, they're not likely to take it into his/her classroom."

Byrne also tries to write about the services he thinks will be around for a while. Sites and startups come and go, and that can complicate (to say the least) teaching plans. So he pays attention to the business outlook for these resources -- particularly for services that will be hosting students' data and work, asking questions about data portability. As the name of the blog suggests, the resources that Byrne posts are free, and so he also examines if and how those tools use advertising. And alongside those that are free, Byrne says he's keen to see more tools that are open. "I would love to see more development tools that don't require a proprietary product like Java or Silverlight in order to run," he says, praising open tools like Aviary and JayCut.

Free Technology for Teachers is a tremendous resource, and it's no surprise that the blog has won numerous awards. But when I asked Byrne what the great challenge is for educational technology, he didn't say teacher adoption, proprietary tech, or data portability. It's access to the Web, according to Byrne -- Internet connectivity in classrooms and at home and the removal of overly restrictive filters at schools. Indeed, curation, resources, archives -- they mean little without access.

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Audrey Watters


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