Learning Ratings for Digital Media from Common Sense Media
Those of you familiar with Common Sense Media may have heard some buzz in social networks recently about their new Learning Ratings Initiative for Digital Media. For many years now, Common Sense Media has been the go-to source for parents and families to find unbiased ratings and reviews of all types of media, including movies, books, apps, websites, and more. When I was in the classroom, I often consulted their site to help students choose independent reading books or to learn about the new websites kids were visiting.
At the heart of a Common Sense Media review is a close look at appropriateness of the media, with a discussion of content, safety, and accessibility for kids. For the new learning ratings initiative, the website, app, and game reviews include an additional review of the learning potential for kids. As more teachers incorporate digital media into the classroom, I think these reviews could be a fantastic resource for educators.
(Disclaimer: I am actually one of the lucky people who gets to write these reviews.)
As a former teacher, my ability to get a first-hand look at the rigorous review process makes me even more excited about these reviews as a resource for eduactors. The reviews include a discussion of the content and skills that kids could learn when engaged with the media ("What kids can learn"), the learning processes that facilitate the learning ("How kids will learn"), and suggestions for parents on how to extend the learning ("How parents can help"). What can be challenging is that something that is marketed as educational might not have a great learning approach, yet something that was designed for fun could have great potential for learning. The reviewers at Common Sense Media take the time to tease that apart and provide details about what they discover in exploring each app, website, or game.
Each app, website, and game receives a rating of 0-3. A rating of zero means that Common Sense Media does not recommend the title be used for learning. A one is fair; it's somewhat engaging with an ok learning approach. A two is good; it has a good learning approach, is pretty engaging, but could use improvements. A three has a great learning approach and is very engaging (and is also pretty rare). Recently reviewed titles that received threes include the new Reading Rainbow app, the learning website Oh Noah!, and the world sim game Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods and Kings.
The new ratings portion of the website is still in beta, so I expect it will continue to evolve as it becomes more integrated into the framework of the Common Sense Media website. Currently on the website, you can narrow your search by category (apps, games, websites), subject area (language arts, math, etc.), and skill (creativity, collaboration, etc.). You can read more about how Common Sense Media developed the learning ratings framework in their press release.
Also of interest from Common Sense Media:
Common Sense Media's Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum