EdTech Evidence Exchange 9 June 2021 · 6 min 23 sec read

February 13, 2020 – The EdTech Genome Project, a collaborative effort of more than 100 education research and advocacy organizations, today announced that it has reached unanimous consensus on an initial list of ten factors hypothesized to influence education technology implementation success or failure. Over the coming year, project participants will study associations between these variables and edtech implementation to help schools and districts make better-informed decisions about selecting and implementing edtech tools that will work well in their contexts.

Each year, educators and school administrators spend more than between $26 billion and $41 billion on thousands of technology tools and products. A growing body of research suggests, however, that the vast majority of these edtech tools are either a poor fit for a particular school or are not implemented effectively.  The identification of these ten variables is part of the EdTech Genome Project’s ongoing effort to address this challenge and facilitate more effective use of education technology. [Editor’s note: estimated spending numbers shown here were updated after initial publication.]

“We know that the effectiveness of technology in the classroom depends on a constellation of factors, from school culture to technical capacity to support from school and district leadership,” said Joseph South, Chief Learning Officer at ISTE and co-chair of the project’s steering committee. “This is an important effort to understand which of those factors matter the most and how to define them — critical steps in fulfilling the promise of using technology to improve outcomes for all students.”

The ten implementation variables and working definitions selected by the EdTech Genome Project as the most important for immediate research are:

Vision for Teaching and Learning

The vision for teaching and learning unifies stakeholders with clear direction, purpose, and rationale for technology-facilitated learning. A high-quality vision is forward-thinking and actionable, and to have effect, must be consistently communicated and referenced as a guide for action. Visioning helps schools and districts recognize opportunities for technology to address problems of practice, prioritize equity, and plan for technology integration that promotes student learning opportunities. Visions describe the ideal state of teaching and learning for all students in which digital technologies transform daily life.

Selection Processes

Selection processes occur prior to procurement and are the presence and quality of consistent methods through which classrooms/schools/districts/states identify, evaluate, and choose education technology to meet established student and teacher needs for learning and instruction. This includes methods for: 

  • Identifying technologies for evaluation
  • Evaluating technologies 
  • Choosing technologies for procurement

Competing Priorities

Competing Priorities is the extent to which a school or district has other prioritized initiatives that impact the available time and attention for new technology implementations. The presence of competing priorities is influenced by limited instructional time, limited preparation time, overlapping initiatives, and inconsistent prioritization.

Infrastructure & Operations

Infrastructure and operations are the enabling conditions that lower barriers for implementation, facilitate uptake, and support scaling and sustaining new education technology. These conditions include physical resources, broadband Internet connectivity, student home devices and connectivity, human resources, system specifications, operational policies, and funding. 

Implementation Systems & Processes

Implementation systems and processes occur after procurement and are the presence and quality of methods through which school communities put technology into effect over time to achieve intended outcomes.  

This includes mechanisms for monitoring ongoing fit with current initiatives, conducting resource inventories, monitoring the ongoing use of the technology as it was designed, making systemic adjustments as needed, and documenting evidence of impact on target outcomes.

Professional Learning

Professional Learning is the presence, duration, and quality of a range of intentional, adult learning activities that support the effective integration of technology to advance student learning and outcomes. This includes both formal and informal opportunities that lead to shifts in beliefs, knowledge, skills, and practices related to technology integration.

Staff Culture

Staff culture refers to the set of beliefs, values, norms, and assumptions that are shared collectively by the school staff and that influence the way in which staff members work individually and collaboratively to fulfill the school’s shared vision for teaching and learning. Important facets of staff culture include trust, social capital, communication, and equity.

Strategic Leadership Support

Strategic leadership support is the extent to which district and school leaders provide explicit encouragement and guidance to faculty and staff who are selecting and implementing edtech tools. This support sets and communicates a vision, develops faculty and staff, and aligns technology implementation with the district instructional plan. 

Teacher Agency

Teacher Agency is the extent to which teachers consistently have a voice in shaping their work, as well as the conditions and tools for that work. Regarding edtech implementation, this is the extent to which the conditions for agency are in place and a variety of teachers are consistently involved in decision-making related to shared visioning, selection processes, implementation processes, infrastructure, and professional learning.

Teacher Beliefs & Knowledge

Teacher Beliefs and Knowledge is individual teachers’ perceived ability to use education technologies and integrate them into their practice. This variable combines 1) teachers’ beliefs about, knowledge about, and experiences using education technology; and 2) teachers’ understanding of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. 

Together, these elements interact to enable the comfort and flexibility necessary to use education technologies effectively and appropriately in different learning settings.

Now that consensus has been reached on which ten variables to study first, the EdTech Genome Project is forming ten national working groups that bring together leading researchers and practitioners with deep experience with each variable. Each working group will spend the next year examining existing evidence to determine how these variables can best be measured. The EdTech Genome project has set a goal of publishing a framework for educators and other stakeholders in late 2020.

“If implemented well, technology has the potential to make a dramatic impact on student achievement,” said Roya Salehi, Vice President of Customer Success for Lexia Learning, a Rosetta Stone company. “By coming together to study the most important implementation variables, educators and tech developers will come closer to realizing our shared goal of improving student outcomes.”

With support from philanthropic and social impact organizations including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Strada Education Network, and Carnegie Corporation of New York, the EdTech Genome Project is the first-ever sector-wide collaboration to solve this challenge and create a framework for better edtech decision-making. The project is led by the EdTech Evidence Exchange, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development.

“The EdTech Genome Project was inspired, in part, by Pearson’s Law, which states ‘that which is measured improves, and that which is measured and reported improves exponentially,’” said Bart Epstein, president and CEO of the EdTech Evidence Exchange and research associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development. “Now that we’ve brought together and achieved consensus among a diverse group of voices in education on which contextual variables merit further collaborative effort, our next step is to agree on how to measure them. Once we have consistent ways to measure these variables, we can begin to collect field reports from hundreds of thousands of educators nationwide who will use common language and measures to describe how education technology is arriving to and performing in their schools.”

This post was updated July 23, 2021.


About the EdTech Evidence Exchange 

The EdTech Evidence Exchange is a nonprofit committed to bringing educator perspectives to bear on edtech procurement and research. Supported by the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development, the Exchange’s work centers on research and development to guide the design of research protocols and tools that will enable educators to document and share their experiences with education technology products. Connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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