Motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education has released five guides highlighting government-funded ed-tech products and programs to assist educators in remote teaching.
The department’s Institute of Education Sciences recently released “Ready Now” guides for math, science and engineering, special education, early learning, and social studies. The guides were put together by private technology developers that benefited from government-funded programs.
IES is the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the agency. Its major purposes are to provide scientific evidence on which to base education practice and policy and to share its data in accessible ways with educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public.
All of the highlighted projects are funded through government projects, including IES’s Small Business Innovation Research and IES Research grants programs, which dedicate funding to ed-tech resources that are based on a rigorous body of research.
In posting the guides, “the goal was that educators could see what innovations are out there that are research-based,” Ed Metz, manager of the institute’s SBIR program, said in an interview.
The featured technologies were were shown through demos at the ED Games Expo in Washington, D.C., in January, but this is the first year the the list of games and tech involved in the expo was publicly posted, Metz said.
During the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, game developers that presented at the expo started arranging and participating in virtual events, with the goal of providing more information on the games and technologies they were discussing, he said.
At that point, developers started writing one-pagers highlighting their products, which were ultimately included in the guides, said Metz, who helped facilitate the publication process of the guides.
Steven Ross, an education professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that some vendors and developers not included in the list might look skeptically at the publication of the guides. But he said overall, he believes the guides are a positive resource for educators and education practitioners.
Though included products will likely gain some market advantage, the guides will probably have practical benefits for school officials searching for products, Ross added.
“I think it’s good that IES is making that available to practitioners, rather than hiding it or ‘file drawering’ it or something like that,” Ross said.
Through the guides, IES is simply listing products that were produced with financial assistance from department funding, Ross said, akin to official notices the agency distributes when it funds federal research projects like efficacy and effectiveness studies.
The National Science Foundation also recently posted five pre-K-12 virtual learning resources. The resources are STEM-focused and are supported by NSF.