Arlington’s EdTech Evidence Exchange wants to help schools build better edtech budgets

The Genome Project report says that about half of all education technology isn’t being used correctly. Here’s how the nonprofit plans to encourage more effective spending.
Bringing tech to the classroom.

Bringing tech to the classroom.

(Photo by Flickr user Dick Thomas Johnson, used under a Creative Commons license)

When the world went virtual at the start of the pandemic, edtech became a crucial element to help students learn from home.

A year later, the industry is having a strong summer in the DMV. On top of last week’s news of EVERFI nabbing $100 million with a product acquisition, we saw MPower Financing raise $100 millionVemo acquired Boston-based Edmit and Full Measure Education announced huge expansion plans with a $10 million funding round, all within the past two months.

But the EdTech Evidence Exchange (EEE) — an Arlington-based nonprofit entwined with the University of Virginia that was formerly known as the Jefferson Education Exchange — has some questions about whether institutions are properly using the technology. According to a new report from EEE known as the Edtech Genome Project, pre-pandemic edtech spending was between $26 billion and $41 billion annually, and post-COVID spending is more likely around $100 billion. (A footnote states that this is actually a conservative estimate.)

But EEE estimates that about half of all education technology is used ineffectively, materially underused or unused at all. And there’s little to no info on which tools work where or why, primarily due to a lack of communication across institutions.

“We know for a fact that school environments vary from each other — in ways that matter deeply when it comes to selecting and implementing the tens of billions of dollars worth of technology we buy for our schools,” said Bart Epstein, CEO of the EEE, in a statement. “It is long past time for millions of educators across the country to be able to learn from each other’s experiences using thousands of technologies.”

The report goes on to say that this occurs because there’s a lack of consistency among educators in shared language, mechanisms and incentives to share and document experience with edtech products. But EEE hopes to change this, identifying 10 variables that most likely have the greatest impact on edtech selection and implementation so institutions can spend more effectively. The variables are:

  • Vision for teaching and learning
  • Selection process
  • Teacher agency
  • Infrastructure and operations
  • Implementation systems and processes
  • Staff culture
  • Teacher beliefs and knowledge
  • Strategic leadership support
  • Professional learning
  • Competing priorities

“Edtech decision makers currently select and implement technologies with almost no information about what is likely to work in their schools,” the report reads. “They spend tens of billions of dollars each year on edtech that is underused, inequitably used or ineffectively used.”

Plus, according to EEE, following the report, the nonprofit now has the information necessary to create a software platform for teachers and administrators, known as the EdTech Evidence Exchange Platform. The organization said the database will include experiences with various edtech products while also allowing users to offer local context, hopefully sparking the creation of new edtech products or better use of existing ones.

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