Guideline criteria for selecting tools


Teachers and learners work in a variety of environments, but let's suppose the following is typical when it comes to network computers:

  1. Working on a shared computer that is quite old and hasn't had a software update in... well, ever!
  2. Is working on a pretty unreliable network that won't allow users to install software.
  3. Runs quite poorly (makes a funny sound from time to time) and the monitor is tiny.
  4. Printer works sometimes but hasn't had a cartridge refill in ages.
  5. etc.

If this is the case anywhere or with anyone in your organisation, then perhaps Gordon's criteria is for you.

It has to be free

For almost every service and application software that is available commercially, there is a free alternative that is often as good if not better.

It has to be easy

If it's free then that's already easier for most of us. The tools selected should be easy enough to use for anyone likely to use it. This may be obvious, but if you were to start considering the difficulties encountered by people using computers with different operating systems, varying level of experience, dissabilities and other access and usability concerns then you might find yourself rulling out most things!

Preferably web based

Many organisations run quite restrictive network security that stops users installing software on computers. Some computers don't have the capacity to run some software packages, and anyway installing software is an all over hassle! There are an increasing number of free services and applications available straight on the Internet that do not require software download and installs to use. Take this website for example. As long as the computer or device has a web browser installed (and just about everyone does these days), and as long as it is networked to the Internet, then its easy to get quite a bit done without using any other applications.

To get started with thinking free and easy check out Leigh Blackall's blog post "Everything You Need to Teach and Learn Online"

But there's more than computers, software and the network to being free and easy...