Why does an ed-tech product in one district succeed in advancing student achievement, while it might flatline in another district?
That’s just one of the questions the EdTech Genome Project tackled over the past several months, as it wrestled with the many factors that influence the outcome of an ed-tech product’s usage.
The “genome” project, a collaborative effort involving more than 100 education research and advocacy organizations, winnowed the field of about 80 variables to what they deemed to be the 10 most worthy of more study now. Those factors are:
- Adoption plans
- Competing priorities
- Foundational resources, such as technology and financial resources, and operational tech support
- Implementation plans
- Professional development/learning and support
- School or staff culture
- Support from school and district administration
- Teacher agency or autonomy
- Teachers’ beliefs about technology/self-efficacy, and technological pedagogical content knowledge
- Vision for teaching and learning with technology
Each variable is being evaluated further by a working group that will build consensus about how to define and measure them, said Bart Epstein, president and CEO of the Jefferson Education Exchange, which is leading the project. JEX is a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development.
Ultimately, the collaborating organizations plan to publish a framework for educators, companies, and other interested parties late in 2020.
“Education is overdue to do what every other industry has done, which is to develop shared instruments of measurement and language to describe how the tools of their trade are applied,” said Epstein.
The lack of this common language and means of monitoring progress has created a challenge for teachers and administrators alike, according to Epstein.
“One thing that keeps coming up over and over is how much frustration there is in education when we have to rely on anecdotes,” he said. “When you go into a school and ask, ‘How much agency and authority do teachers have about the decision to bring in technology?’ you’re almost sure to get anecdotes.”
The point of conducting this research is to “help schools understand how ready they are—or are not—for different products, programs and policies,” said Epstein. “Districts across the U.S. are spending billions of dollars on well-intentioned efforts that fail because they don’t have the data to understand that their environment is not conducive to the success of what they’re buying.”
Next year, JEX plans to start development on a platform that will allow districts to document the technologies in their classrooms, how they were chosen, and what the implementation is like. “In the interim, we’re collecting research manually, and paying cash stipends to large numbers of educators in return for their taking the time to provide this information,” Epstein said.