ISTE Unveils Plans to Match Ed-Tech Companies With Educators for Feedback on Apps

Associate Editor

Ed-tech product developers often express frustration about being unable to find teachers to review their apps before going to market.

ISTE—the International Society for Technology in Education—is launching a program to address this persistent problem in the product design and development cycle, said Richard Culatta, CEO of ISTE, in a session at the ASU+GSV Summit here.

Called the ISTE Ed-Tech Advisor, the initiative is designed to give educators access to a platform where they will share with one another how they use ed-tech products, in what context and provide data about their experiences with the apps.

Eventually, ISTE will broker connections between companies and educators for a “feedback loop” that could help developers design their products by getting input from the intended end users, Culatta said.

Companies can already have their products reviewed by a trained ISTE panel as part of the organization’s Seal of Alignment program, Culatta said.

When the ISTE Ed-Tech Advisor is launched as a beta later this year, teachers will use an “inventory tool” that’s been created to assess the digital resources they use. In a pilot test of the Ed-Tech Advisor, 150 teachers uploaded an inventory of the ed-tech products, apps and tools they use over a four-week period.

Once it is opened for full access for a private ‘ISTE view’ this summer, members can share ratings, reviews and feedback on products with one another to get feedback about what tools to choose and use, based on their learning goals. They will not be compensated for posting their feedback or reviews.

No date has been set yet for when companies will be able to find out how their products are rated, said Mindy Frisbee, ISTE’s director of alignment, after the conference.

The 25,000 educators who are members of ISTE have the context to understand the classrooms where a product would be used, and the enthusiasm about technology to be responsive about a product’s suitability, Culatta said.

Companies will be able to request feedback from teachers based on certain demographics, such as the geographic location, subject area, grade level and experience level of educators. Culatta said a company could request “10, 8th-grade English teachers in rural schools” to evaluate an app, he said.

“Nobody has ever tried to do anything like this before,” said Culatta, noting that the program isn’t quite ready for prime time, but will be open for business in the near future.

Earlier this year, a similar effort for established ed-tech products called the Jefferson Education Exchange, or JEX, was announced with plans to pay teachers for their reviews.

Launched as a non-profit with support from the University of Virginia, that program plans to create an online hub for educators to write and get paid for providing detailed accounts of their inspiring or agonizing experiences using ed-tech products, as my colleague Sean Cavanagh described it.

Culatta emphasized that ISTE’s program would be part of a “healthy product development cycle,” which often doesn’t exist in education. For K-12, ed-tech often follows a “design>>deploy” sequence, with no evaluation and feedback built into the loop. ISTE’s new program would build in that feedback, he said.

CLARIFICATION: This post has been updated based on new information from ISTE, with more details about how the ISTE Ed-Tech Advisor will be rolled out later this year—and when companies will be able to access information and data available on it.

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