This spring, a new app for educators launched, quietly transforming the ease with which educators can now reach out for help or advice in specific areas or share innovative ideas with others looking to improve their practice, school, or overall organization.
LocatED’s concept and structure are both uncomplicated, which is part of what makes this the best tool for connected educator hopefuls. Most who are hesitant to engage on Twitter beyond “lurker” status feel that way because it’s so public. Reaching out for help from a specific educator on Twitter means the entire Twitter-verse sees the attempt, which makes a lot of users apprehensive who genuinely want to connect. That’s not the fault of Twitter. While it’s been adopted by educators as “the place” to connect and it’s a great tool for leading, learning, and sharing, it wasn’t created specifically for educators. Luckily, LocatED was.
The importance of connecting with other educators in the 21st century can’t be overstated. LocatED aims to make connecting easy so that “innovation can take root and grow in our schools.” Even in the most collaborative of environments, teachers often feel bound by the constraints of their schedules and school days, but LocatED breaks down the walls of a school so that teachers can implement better practices for students regardless of geographical access to resources or experts.
Ease of Use
The app is comprised of two main features, which are the key to its practicality but also its usability.
For teachers who are looking to collaborate outside of their districts with experts in a multitude of topics — some of which include 21st Century Learning, Innovative Teaching/Learning, Professional Development and Instructional Coaching — Locate Guidance offers a quick click to an experienced practitioner in the user’s area of interest/need. After selecting “Locate Guidance” from the home screen, users are asked to select the skill and then ask their question. Upon clicking “submit,” the user is directed to a list of potential educator matches in that area of expertise, and by clicking on that user, your question is delivered to them through the messaging function of the app.
What separates the Locate Guidance feature (and the LocatED app in general) apart from other social media tools used by educators is that people are there to both learn AND provide advice, so when you reach out, you’re not reaching out blindly in hopes that someone experienced will answer; you’re being directed to a targeted, expert audience that you otherwise wouldn’t have known existed. There is no lengthy search to find someone who can help because the match is made for you. In my short time as a user, I’ve reached out for guidance three times, and each time I’ve received a timely and helpful response, even though the experts were total strangers to me before our LocatED interaction.
“Locate Innovative Ideas” is the second feature, and is comparable to an Instagram feed. The best part about this feature is that people can filter for ideas in certain categories or browse the entire feed for inspiration.
Users can search by keyword (i.e. subject area or grade level) or filter by the aforementioned categories like Professional Development or 21st Century Learning. Adding an idea to share in the stream is as simple as posting to Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat: Users click the plus icon and add a picture of their idea in action, a quick description, and then select applicable categories before submitting. Other users can like and comment, which adds another opportunity to connect with educators with similar interests or varied skills.
Free with no strings attached
Education is changing more rapidly now than probably ever before, and as states and districts continue to strive to meet the needs of developing staff and providing quality 21st century learning experiences to students while fighting shrinking budgets, LocatED brings together experts and learners in one, easy-to-access location. The developer, Joanna Carroll, started the app as a Google Innovator project, and is committed to keeping the app free for educators — always. While ads are present in the app and are noticeable and applicable to users, they are unobtrusive so as not to interfere with the user experience. In all aspects, LocatED has been created for the needs of the user, and as its reach spreads, it will likely become the go-to virtual meeting place for educators.