10 Reasons Why Teachers Should Be Excited About Ecos
As we all know, a little of something is good, more of something is better, but a too much isn’t always great.
For teachers, this is a problem they work through every day; when looking for digital resources like videos and worksheets, they’re blessed with too much of a good thing.
Back in the dark ages, if you needed new material, you made it yourself or borrowed from a colleague. The Internet solved much of that with search engines like Google, where a teacher could plug in a search term and find hundreds and thousands of resources from all over the country or world.
But then the internet got big. Very big.
Today, a search engine will bring teachers million of links. But now they have to dig through website after website to find what they need, and because companies make an effort to boost their placement on results pages with metatags and keywords, what’s at the top of the list may not be the best choice, just with the most savvy SEO expert.
Ecos, a new database funded by the National Science Foundation, promises to fix that problem. Currently in beta and set for public launch later this year, Ecos not only aggregates content from around the web, it reviews it, classifies it, and then makes it searchable for teachers.
Why should teachers be using Ecos when it launches?
One search tool to rule them all: Ecos will likely be the one stop teachers will need to find resources. Ecos breaks down its search results into three categories: Ecos Evaluated, High-Quality, and Google Search. Ecos Evaluated resources have been rigorously reviewed by the company’s team of classroom teachers and aligned to CCSS and NGSS standards. The High Quality resources don’t have that level of detail but have been deemed likely to be useful to teachers. But the real kicker is the Google Search results, which is better than just going to Google. Ecos layers an extra set of search criteria into its Google search, so the items that appear have already been filtered for only those relevant to education, so searching for “baseball” won’t turn up last night’s game scores.
Search for images: In addition to finding worksheets, apps, games, and lesson plans, Ecos offers a section for images, which have been gleaned from Google images and, like its search results, pre-filtered for educational applicability. So searching for third-grade math games using “animals” will not only turn up math resources using animals but also images you can use in your lesson.
Content from everywhere on the web: Ecos’ database contains thousands of resources, including websites with worksheets, videos, and lesson plans and apps from both iTunes and Google Play stores. Content makers include Khan Academy, Education.com, Concord Consortium, eTap, and the NSTA, with more being added daily.
Aligned, reviewed, and double-checked by teachers: While putting classroom resources into a database is nothing new, the Ecos Evaluated resources have been pre-aligned to NGSS and CCSS standards by actual teachers. According to its developers, Ecos employs a team of teachers from across the country who evaluate and align a resource using a proprietary method developed by one the nation’s leading education experts. The first teacher evaluates, another teacher reviews the alignment to ensure it’s correct, and only after a third review by an Ecos administrator does the resource appear in the database. So if you read it in an Ecos review, you can trust it’s accurate information.
Super-detailed reviews: Not only do Ecos reviews contain curricular alignment, they also detail suggested classroom uses and how best to use them with students — as core curriculum, supplement, extension, or intervention — as well as what kind of assessments they contain, the material strengths, and their ease of use. No stone is left unturned in the Ecos evaluation, so a teacher can one-to-one compare resources before investing money or time into them.
Ecos is agnostic: Ecos does not produce its own content. It is strictly a database, so it has no vested interest in which choice a teacher makes. In addition, Ecos is federally funded and it is not a marketplace that sells paid products. Links to resources direct to the product makers' own sites and Ecos makes no profit from their use, so it is not beholden to specific content makers and doesn’t steer users toward specific products.
Free and paid resources: Resources listed are both paid and free, and there’s a handy link to email information on a resource you’ve found directly to your school’s resource administrator, so it’s a no-fuss, no-muss way to spread the word about what you discovered.
Ecos Bundles: Ecos offers a tab that will bundle complementary resources together to nearly instantly develop a lesson plan. Because of the breadth of resources from different content providers within the database, it pulls from multiple sources to match them up. It can pair, for example, a video from Khan Academy to a worksheet from Concord Consortium and a game from iTunes to make a cohesive plan that leaves few or no gaps.
Drilling down for exactly the right gap filler: While many databases will let you search for grade and subject, Ecos allows you to get very specific about what you need. Say you want to find a game to fit into your fractions lesson using seasons of the year. This would normally require a ton of searching individual sites on Google or another resource database. Because of the full Ecos evaluations, multiple, unrelated search terms usually turn up exactly what you’re looking for without having to filter through a lot of chaff.
It’s FREE!: This is probably the best part. Ecos is totally free for teachers. ‘Nuff said.
Ecos is currently in closed-beta and testing with teachers. If you are a US-based teacher and would like to participate in the beta survey and offer your feedback (or just take a tour for yourself), contact Ecos through the product’s Facebook or Twitter profiles.