December 18, 2017 | By Sierra Noakes
When considering the benefits to using edtech, an eighth grade student at Elizabeth Forward School District said, “When we started in first and second grade, everything was on paper and it was just a lot more difficult because if you forgot something, you can’t go back to school and get it. But, everything is now on iPads, and using technology is just a lot easier and it helps me study more, too.”
District leaders in Elizabeth Forward, a small, rural school district in Pennsylvania, are seeking to support student engagement and learning by bringing in edtech. Early in their edtech integration journey, they largely based purchasing decisions on word of mouth. Intending to provide students with the best programs and products, district leaders found themselves grabbing any app or software they heard about from other districts. They quickly realized they were spending money and managing a huge number of edtech tools without understanding if the products were needed or making an impact on student learning.
In 2015, the district began partnering with Digital Promise to develop better processes for making evidence-based decisions in order to ensure the tools benefit their students and educators. Through their engagement in multiple research projects with Digital Promise, the innovative district created a school culture that supports and encourages edtech piloting.
Embedded in their culture is an emphasis on educator buy-in and student voice. The district has stressed that buy-in does not relate to any single edtech tool, but rather to an overall commitment to thoughtfully experiment with edtech. An educator explained, “We are able to take risks. Our administration is very supportive. […] If something doesn’t work, it’s okay. […] To have that freedom to try and fail and re-adjust and learn… successes come from that.”
In addition to advancing their own edtech adoption and implementation practices, Elizabeth Forward, along with 17 innovative districts, has contributed to the Edtech Pilot Framework, a guide for districts seeking to make evidence-based edtech decisions. The district’s Technology Director, Mary B. Wiseman, explained how the Framework supports decision making: “Digital Promise’s Edtech Pilot Framework really help[s] us determine what our goals are and what those benchmarks that we’re going to assess are going to be.”
To learn more about Elizabeth Forward’s journey, check out the video below!
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