Overdeck Family Foundation Backs Nationwide Effort to Help Educators Make Better-Informed Decisions About Technology

New grant will support ambitious sector-wide initiative, led by UVA-affiliated EdTech Evidence Exchange, to improve the impact of billions in edtech spending

DECEMBER 9, 2021 – ARLINGTON, VA – The EdTech Evidence Exchange, a research-based nonprofit organization affiliated with the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development, today announced that it has received a $300,000 grant from Overdeck Family Foundation. The funding will support the Exchange’s ongoing work to improve edtech decision-making by empowering educators nationwide to learn from each other’s experiences with thousands of education technology products — in ways that will build a better shared understanding of what edtech tools work, where, and why.

“Technology is playing a critical role in schools’ recovery from the pandemic — as well as their preparation for whatever challenges are still to come. But edtech’s potential to meaningfully improve student outcomes requires that schools have the information needed to make evidence-based purchasing decisions,” said Melanie Dukes, Senior Program Officer at Overdeck Family Foundation. “The Exchange is doing critical work in bringing together educators, researchers, and advocates to build a practical, research-backed understanding of what factors contribute to the success — or failure — of edtech tools. We’re proud to support them in their efforts to improve evidence-based decision making in the field.”

Before the pandemic, the U.S. was spending between $25 and $41 billion per year on education technology, but approximately half of those purchases were used ineffectively, materially underused, or unused entirely. A key cause of this ongoing waste is that schools and districts currently lack the incentive and mechanisms necessary to learn from each other’s experiences. 

To address this challenge, the EdTech Evidence Exchange is working to collect data from a representative sample of educators nationwide – beginning in Alabama, Nevada, and Utah – who each report on their experiences using technology and also describe the environment in which that technology is implemented. They do this using the tools developed through the EdTech Genome Project in a way that makes it possible for other educators to sift through each other’s feedback based on contextual relevance. When this work scales, it will make it possible for educators to learn from the experiences of others working in similar contexts — an approach with the potential to save billions of dollars and lead to dramatic improvements in student learning outcomes. 

“Our nation’s educators have had to navigate the past two years with little to no reliable evidence about which technology tools would be a good fit for their district — during one of the most volatile periods in recent memory,” said Bart Epstein, president and CEO of the EdTech Evidence Exchange. “Now more than ever, it’s vitally important that we unlock the insights of teachers and administrators themselves, in order to understand what technology tools can best support learning in the myriad educational environments across the country.” 

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