Families in Search of Edtech Tools: Start Here - Digital Promise

Families in Search of Edtech Tools: Start Here

A mother and daughter work together in an elementary school classroom

August 12, 2020 | By and

As another school year begins, many families are now tasked with educating their children at home, changing the way we think about and prioritize learning. Remote learning is no longer a remote possibility: The number of edtech tools accessed is nearly 90 percent higher since school closures due to the onset of COVID-19, according to a recently published analysis by LearnPlatform. Families need guidance as they continue to be expected to use and learn these tools.

How can edtech companies expand their focus from district administrators and classroom educators to better understand families’ needs during and after the COVID-19 pandemic? And what resources are available to help families navigate the deluge of edtech products?

What Parents and Caregivers Need to Adjust to the New Educator Role

In a recent EdWeek Market Brief webinar, presenters discussed survey and interview findings regarding parents and caregivers’ edtech needs at this time. They identified two major areas of need:

  1. Caregivers need ongoing support. Families need access to product teams and forums to discuss challenges and share success stories, as well as access to knowledgeable educators to understand the purpose of the tools and what engagement should look like. This calls for products to provide ongoing professional development and support to educators who can serve as coaches for the caregivers who are facilitating instruction at home.
  2. Caregivers need clear, jargon-free communication. Edtech companies need to simplify their explanations about what their products offer learners, which should move beyond short-term, “freemium” possibilities. Caregivers need to clearly understand the learning goals and intentions behind activities and tasks, and they need guides featuring best practices to support quality interactions with their students using the tool.

Most caregivers feel overwhelmed and tired. Conversations with friends consistently reaffirm the point that families do not feel equipped to take on learning as a primary home activity. One friend joked, “Where’s my parent CliffsNotes? I don’t remember the context of what math should be for a first grader”—much less with the involvement of apps! And which app to choose is also a heightened concern.

Helping Parents and Caregivers Select Edtech

We’ve been in crisis mode for months. Now, we need to move from making sure the boat doesn’t sink to designing a new boat that meets the needs of diverse learners in multiple environments that families can access and readily understand. As parents and caregivers grapple with remote learning and the uncertainty of “back to school,” there’s a demand and need for credible resources and tools.

One of the challenges in the spring was the influx of apps and products that were thrown at families. Parents and caregivers grew tired of unclear messages intended to help that often led to frustration and disillusionment with online learning. This bombardment often left families feeling exhausted by the noise and not having the energy or time to figure out which products were designed for learning. With the abundance of products out there, families could benefit from a concise, focused tool that allows parents to figure out what matters. Be specific: you have a first grader learning math? Try this research-based tool.

Product certifications can be one step in helping families sift through the noise.

  • The Research-Based Design product certification offers educators and caregivers clear signals around which edtech products are designed based on research about learning. Products that earn the Research-Based Design product certification have third-party validation that the tool is designed based on research about how individuals learn, providing caregivers and educators insights into the likelihood of success with the tool.
  • The Learner Variability product certification, which launches this October, will offer educators and families a clear signal to identify products that are designed to attend to the varied ways students learn. Caregivers and educators can feel confident that tools with this certification are more likely to meet learners’ needs, regardless of their physical learning environment.

These certifications will not support caregivers managing student logins while videoconferencing for work, or remind you what the Pythagorean theorem is, but they can offer a starting place for selecting tools designed for learning.

Sign the Product Promise to share your commitment to research-based edtech design to support powerful learning. We’d love to hear from parents and caregivers about what product certifications you would like to see in the future. Please share your ideas with us!

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