Choosing Edtech: Three Learnings from Five Districts - Digital Promise

Choosing Edtech: Three Learnings from Five Districts

How might districts find edtech to support learning?

As students and teachers return to school this fall, they will be using more technology than ever before. Districts will have access to the nearly $190 billion which the U.S. Department of Education is providing local education agencies (LEAs) to address students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs.

With little existing research evidence for most edtech products and substantial latitude from the Department regarding what counts as evidence in informing spending of COVID aid dollars, districts will be largely left to utilize their own processes for determining which digital learning tools to invest in.

Fortunately, educators can leverage learnings from some leading-edge K-12 districts who have developed thoughtful processes for making edtech decisions despite limited available evidence. A study conducted in 2017 and published in June 2021 investigated how five school districts from Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools made edtech purchasing decisions. Their approaches to finding tools that benefit their learners and staff can be useful to district leaders searching for the right tools for their students.

  • The decision-making process must be thoughtfully developed and clearly understood by all stakeholders, and it must be adaptable to the product’s purpose.

For example, a product that disseminates instructional materials may be considered successful based on usage data, whereas a product focused on learning interventions or direct instruction may require assessment data evidence to determine success.

  • The decision-making process must include input from both the IT team and the curriculum team.

Districts that created opportunities for feedback from a technical team and a curriculum team before piloting at the classroom level created conditions for long-term success should the pilot data prove promising. Consulting with only IT or the curriculum team (or neither) before beginning a product implementation can result in red flags down the road, and frustration among students and teachers.

  • End user data—from both students and teachers—should be intentionally gathered and utilized to drive decision making throughout the entire process.

Those who are most impacted by a tool—students and teachers—need to have a voice in the decision-making process. Consistent reports on edtech usage have found that many product licenses go unused largely because teachers and students do not have the tools, resources, and motivation to engage with them. Understanding what works, and what doesn’t, from a user perspective is critical before deciding on wide-scale technology adoption.

To learn more about the research behind these learnings, check out the published study.

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