BLOG: View the 10 Contextual Variables and Working Definitions Selected by the EdTech Genome Steering Committee to be Studied First

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EdTech Evidence Exchange
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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 $13 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. 

“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:

Selection Processes

...the presence and quality of systematic and inclusive processes and associated resources a school/district/state uses to vet and select technology prior to purchasing and full-scale implementation. This includes understanding and use of efficacy research, as well as the use of pilot trials.  

Competing Priorities

...the extent to which a school/district has other prioritized initiatives such that an edtech implementation "moves up or down on the list" for educators. This includes the presence of too many technology initiatives, as well as the competition between tech and non-tech initiatives.  

Infrastructure & Operations

…the essential structural resources needed for edtech implementation, including technology resources (i.e. hardware, software, Internet), operational technology support, and financial resources. 

Implementation Systems & Processes

...the presence and quality of systematic and inclusive processes a school/district uses to implement edtech tools after procurement and over multiple years.  This includes setting and monitoring usage and engagement goals, as well as evaluating effectiveness. 

Professional Learning

...the presence, frequency, and quality of independent/informal and formal professional learning and collaboration opportunities for teachers implementing edtech tools.

Staff Culture

...the way teachers and other staff members work together and the set of beliefs, values, and assumptions they share.

Strategic Leadership Support

...the encouragement, opportunities, and tactical support provided by school/district administrators to teachers and support staff implementing edtech tools. 

Teacher Agency

...teachers’ active contribution to shaping their work, tools, and conditions. In particular, this is the extent to which a school/district includes teachers in edtech decision-making for adoption and implementation. 

Teacher Beliefs & Knowledge

...educators’ beliefs about the value of edtech, their understanding of pedagogical best practices for integrating technology, and their beliefs that their implementation of edtech will effectively support instruction and student outcomes. 

Vision for Teaching and Learning

...the presence, quality, and communication of a school/district vision for edtech implementation. Specifically, this considers the extent to which that vision articulates the way in which technologies are leveraged as tools for supporting instruction and student outcomes.

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 Jefferson Education Exchange, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Virginia Curry 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 Jefferson Education Exchange and research associate professor at the Curry School. “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."  

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About Jefferson Education Exchange 

The Jefferson Education Exchange is a nonprofit committed to bringing educator perspectives to bear on edtech procurement and research. Supported by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Human Development, the Jefferson Education 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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