How Do You Find Edtech Tools that Take Educator Expertise Seriously? – Digital Promise

How Do You Find Edtech Tools that Take Educator Expertise Seriously?

January 23, 2024 | By

Educators know their students’ needs best, and their expertise should directly inform the development of edtech products to ensure its innovations will be impactful and invaluable to learners. However, too often educators’ expertise is underutilized. Without direct practitioner participation, it can be unclear whether these products actually support authentic classroom needs and are viable within learning frameworks. And even when educators are involved in the development of such tools, they rarely learn of the outcome of their participation, even when it has benefitted the very tool they’re already using in their classroom.

Our recent work with feedback loops involved a deep dive into better understanding how key perspectives in the edtech space are shared meaningfully. Based on learnings from this project, the Digital Promise product certification team has developed and launched the Practitioner-Informed Design product certification. To be certified, edtech teams must submit an application, and Digital Promise assessors determine whether products successfully meet the requirements. Earning this certification signals to district leaders and edtech procurers that the product team centers educator expertise and priorities by embracing a learning culture to iteratively improve design through multiple instances of practitioner partnerships

“It is important for vendor partners to come into a relationship they are attempting to establish with an understanding of what the priorities, strengths, and areas of challenge that a district or school community brings. The authenticity of their interest in learning about a district and willingness to listen and show flexibility is crucial,” notes Dr. Rebekah Kim, associate superintendent of teaching and learning at Kent School District.

This certification, joining others in the Digital Promise library like Research-Based Design for Instructional Learning Products and Learner Variability, requires product teams to submit artifacts, or evidence, demonstrating:

  1. The team leverages relationship-building and collaborative design-based engagements to learn about education communities’ strengths, needs, and priorities; learn how the tool is used in practice; and consider how to better support historically and systematically excluded learners and/or practitioners.
  2. Findings from the design-based engagements impact iterative product design and/or product roadmapping.
  3. Specific staff members on the product team, or outside experts working in partnership, are responsible for building iterative, multi-touchpoint relationships with educator practitioners with the explicit intention of learning more about user needs and building educator capacity to utilize the tool.
  4. The contributors are directly made aware of their influence on the changes.

“Digital Promise’s Practitioner-Informed Design Product Certification offers a much-needed signal that the product is built with, not for, us teachers,” says Ivey Homer, an instructional coach in Lexington School District One. “The certification’s requirements ensure that companies stay grounded in the realities of educators and students, prioritizing our voices as they actively work to build tools that meet our needs, not merely chasing trends. This, in turn, helps eliminate the ‘edtech graveyard’ of abandoned and underutilized tools. Knowing a product is built with real-world needs in mind grants districts and teachers the confidence to invest and trust it to support teaching and learning.”

Discover Certified Products

Digital Promise is proud to recognize the following products, which are the first to earn this new certification:

  • My Math Academy® by Age of Learning is an adaptive, personalized program proven to significantly accelerate math learning outcomes.
  • My Reading Academy™ by Age of Learning is an adaptive program designed to help learners build a foundation for reading comprehension and literacy and become fluent readers.
  • Pear Practice (formerly Giant Steps) by Pear Deck Learning is a gamified practice tool designed to accelerate student learning by enabling differentiated independent practice and collaborative learning in K-12 classrooms.
  • ReadWorks is an online platform providing free high-quality texts and tools designed to supplement any curricula to improve reading comprehension for every district, school, and student.
Apply Now

The Practitioner-Informed Design product certification is now open, and we welcome product teams to submit applications! Earning products receive an Open Badge for authentication that is valid for two years. Learn more about product certifications and the application process here.

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