Educational materials should be chosen based upon (but not limited to) the following criteria:
Is it relevant to the lesson you are teaching?
Is it aligned with the scope & sequence, and other requirements you may be obliged to follow?
Is it appropriate to your students' age(s), interests, level?
Is it inviting to your students, i.e. do you believe that it will capture and hold their attention and interest?
Is it challenging?
Does it have a clear teaching point?
Are you clear on how it will be implemented into the learning environment? Will it be for whole group instruction, small groups, partners, or individuals?
How much time will it take? Is it worth the time you will spend on it?
How much explanation and practice will it take to use? This is important if it is meant to be student-guided. Will you need to devote your attention to it's use, merely available to students who need help, or can students be almost totally independent with it?
Is it durable? Will it withstand all of the use you expect it to get for as long as you need it?
Is it affordable? Will you have to sacrifice other important purchases to get it?
Is it something that you could borrow from your campus resources, i.e., library, laboratory, supply room, a/v dept, etc.?
Is it something you could create yourself, or your students could learn from creating themselves?
Is it safe to use?
Will it much time and effort to put it away or clean it, or clean it up?
Do you have adequate storage space for it? Do you have a plan for storing it?
Will it be shared? If so, will you have adequate time to use it? Can you trust those you are sharing it with to give you the time needed while extending the same courtesy to them? Do you feel confident that it will be returned in usable condition if this is expected?
Are you enthusiastic about sharing it with your students?
Can you use it to extend the lesson in a new direction that would be useful to you? This is a nice bonus?
Will it appeal to the students' sense of humor? Provide them with a memory device? Provide visual aids? Anything else that would make it very appealing?
Will student's take it home? What will be you method of loaning it to students? Do you have a plan if it is not returned? Does your institution allow/support this plan?
Does it require a power source? Do you have an adequate number of power outlets in accessible places or an adequate battery supply for the life of the material you are purchasing?
What will be your rules for students using this purchase? Will it be for teacher use only, used by students in class or outside of class?
If it will be an assignment, do you have a clear picture of how it will be turned in or graded?
If students are to write on it, is there adequate space for the answer you expect?
If it is to be copied, is there enough contrast to make it clear? Color backgrounds, illustrations, photos, and light font do not copy well.
How reliant would you be on this purchase? If it were to become unusable, would you have a backup plan?
How many will you need? One for the class, one for each student or group?
Is it a high theft item? If so, is there a place you can lock it up?
Has it won any awards that would increase you confidence in purchasing it? Do you know anyone who has purchased it that could recommend it?
Will it be implemented into a teaching theme (seasonal, holiday, subject) or color coding system that may affect which variety you buy?
Are there any restrictions (by the manufacturer, the government or your employer) for using it that would affect your freedom to use it as you wish?
If you find yourself teaching another subject or population, will it be useful to you then?
What is the source of funding for this purchase? Personal, fundraiser, class or departmental budget, donation, etc. Are you clear on whose property the purchase becomes with each funding source? Will this affect how you choose to purchase it?
Is your item available at a discount from a used source (Half Price Books, Amazon, garage sales, Craig's List, etc.)
Can you get a discount if you buy in bulk?
Does the item tempt students to misuse it in such a way that it becomes a distraction or discipline problem?
If it cannot be used by all your students at once, is something planned for those who are not be using yet?
Does it celebrate human diversity? Is it insensitive toward any student or group of students you may teach? Is it empowering? Does it have a good universal message?
Does it invite problem solving capabilities? Does it allow for the talents of many types of students to come into play?
Is it adaptable for optimum use by students who are in special populations, i.e., gifted, English language learners, struggling readers, etc...
Does it offer a format for use that would provide a new experience within your classroom? CD-ROM, manipulatives, big books, models, realia, video, learning games, music, tactile, movement, that isn't yet overdone?
Does it allow for creativity and alternate solutions?
Does it require additional equipment in order to be used safely, effectively, or fully? Do you have access to these?
These are just some of the many things that should be considered when making educational material purchases. Of course they will not all apply to each purchase you make, but I'm hoping this'll help get you thinking of even more of your own important things to consider when making an educational material purchase. Good luck!
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