4 in 10 Educators Lack a Voice in Choosing Ed Tech, New Analysis Finds
by Emma Kate Fittes
A new effort to gauge teachers’ positive or negative experiences with ed tech shows that four out of 10 educators have little involvement in selecting the tools they use.
Forty-one percent of the more than 1,000 teachers who participated in a survey created for the EdTech Evidence Exchange Platform said they are never or almost never involved in choosing the tools they use.
That’s one of the early takeaways offered by the platform, which was launched last fall by the EdTech Evidence Exchange, a nonprofit that advocates for more research and accountability in the K-12 marketplace.
So far, the Evidence Exchange has gathered information from more than 1,000 educators, including 878 teachers, 83 school leaders, and 39 district leaders from 132 different districts or charter organizations. The long-term goal is much more ambitious — to reach 3 million educators.
The organization’s flagship platform seeks to collect, analyze, and share teacher’s feedback to help educators make better purchasing decisions.
Educators were provided a stipend and asked a series of questions in two surveys. The first asked about the overall environment of their school or district. The second focused on their experiences with a specific product, including their recommendations to other teachers who are considering using it.
Given the little say many teachers report they have over purchasing of products, many of their survey responses about improvements they want to see in ed tech focused more heavily on implementation.
When asked to share advice for other teachers, their recommendations included:
- “Plan the time to complete the trainings instead of trying to ‘wing it’ and make it a priority to utilize it regularly to build comfort for kids.”
- “Learn how to access the data so you can challenge students more effectively and so students can work at their own independent learning level.”
- “Make sure you learn the tool yourself and try a demo student account.”
The goal of the platform is to get a better idea of which products work best in which districts — information districts are currently lacking, said Bart Epstein, Evidence Exchange CEO and a University of Virginia research associate professor.
“Everyone [in K-12 education] is working hard with the best intentions,” Epstein said. “We just don’t know which things work where, under which circumstances, and why.”
The Evidence Exchange Platform has begun to reveal differences in how technologies perform in different school districts.
But there’s not enough data yet to pinpoint why this is happening — whether there’s a specific product that is falling short or a mismatch between what a product offers and district needs, said Emily Kohler, director of research of the exchange.
Uneven Impact Seen on Student Outcomes
For now, the Exchange is focused on collecting information on math-related tools and programs, but eventually will expand to other areas, said Kohler said, who is also a University of Virginia research assistant professor.
“We started with math because we have the strongest evidence about the impact of math technology on student learning outcomes and we also know it is a high-needs area in light of COVID-19,” she said.
Other early takeaways from the nonprofit’s research are:
- Teachers generally stress the importance of learning a tool and being confident in it themselves first, before bringing it to students.
- Overall, educators rate their school’s online math tool as a 7 on a 10-point scale for its success in improvements to instruction, student engagement, and student outcomes.
- 15 percent of educators rate their school’s online math tool as a 5 or below out of 10 for “Success in Terms of Student Outcomes”
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