New Hub Aims to Help Schools Find the Right Ed-Tech Products During COVID-19

Contributing Writer

As schools and businesses around the world work to address the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning, developers of an educational research and innovation hub expedited the release of a tool that should help school districts and other policymakers make ed-tech purchasing decisions.

Financially supported by the World Bank and the United Kingdom Department for International Development, among other entities, The EdTech Hub rolled out a new database this month to help education leaders find platforms and software that could help improve teaching and learning during COVID-19.

Developed in partnership with UNESCO, the database could help education companies gain global exposure as K-12 systems around the world grapple with how to handle learning at a time when wider use of remote learning or some mix of in-person/virtual learning for next school year is becoming more likely.

Prior to the pandemic, EdTech Hub developers had planned to publicly launch the database this fall. The hub was launched in October 2019 and its core mission is to synthesize existing evidence, conduct new research, support innovation, and advise governments and other school decisionmakers all over the world on how technology can help improve teaching and learning.

Because of the coronavirus, “education technology and ways to reach learners at home become an absolute urgent priority, not just for parents, but for school systems, government officials, teachers, [and] schools,” Molly Jamieson Eberhardt, the hub’s director of engagement, said in an interview.

The database currently has 30 listings of ed-tech tools (as of Wednesday afternoon).

The ultimate goal is to list approximately 500 tools, and 100 by the end of June, Eberhardt said.

The database’s target audience is people who make decisions about how to use technology to improve learning, especially decisionmakers in low- and middle-income countries, she said.

There is a great opportunity to use the database to facilitate learning within developing countries and among lower-income populations in developed countries, Eberhardt said.

In the coming months, the hub will add functionality to show users evidence associated with the effectiveness of individual tools, which will be critical in guiding procurement decisions, she said.

Hub developers are also working to house information on compliance with student privacy regulations, said Michael Trucano, global lead for technology and innovation in education for The World Bank Education Global Practice. That will help overwhelmed education officials maintain best practices around protecting students’ data, he said.

Karen Mundy, professor of international and comparative education at the University of Toronto and a senior adviser for The EdTech Hub, also noted that the platform offers one-on-one policy advice to education officials around the world.

Mundy said one key goal for the hub is to help districts and state education agencies address several important questions, including: How can students learn on days they aren’t in school? What technologies should districts implement across the board? Should synchronous or asynchronous learning be used? What is the best learning management and livestreaming software? And, how can governments in developing countries blend radio- and TV-based education with digital learning approaches?

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