Education Leaders Want Ed-Tech Tools that Provide User-Friendly Data

Founder, CEO & Chief Data Wizard at Schoolrunner

Last week I traveled to San Diego for the annual ASU+GSV conference with a simple question: When it comes to use of data, what’s working and what isn’t?

Education leaders from across the country told us over and over, “We are data rich, but information poor.” In other words they don’t lack data–what they lack are insights and action items drawn from the data.

I wrote recently about schools trying to bring together from all their various data sources and the challenges they’re likely to face in such an effort. Even districts that have some kind of data warehouse described challenges. And among the subset of schools that had a dedicated research team, there were still struggles to pull actionable insights from their mountains of data.

Superintendents pointed to apps they used the outside education world and asked, “Why aren’t the systems in education doing more for me?”

The tech world is moving so fast these days that the “technology gap” just keeps growing. I don’t mean the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” (though that’s critically important as well). I mean the gap between ed tech and the rest of the tech world. When you talk to these educators, they’re used the ease of Lyft, of Alexa, of artificial intelligence-powered digital assistants on their phones and so on. The rest of their lives just keep getting easier, with even more progress on the horizon with self-driving cars and AI-enabled everything.

Even in ed-tech areas where you’d expect to see progress, like instructional apps–one of the most heavily developed categories in ed-tech–there are still huge gaps in the effort to fulfill the expectations of school districts. When it comes to interoperability schools have been forced to band together to try to combine their buying power to force vendors to open up access to the data that schools need.

It was a great conference and I learned a lot from talking to so many long-time educators. Here’s how I would summarize the feedback I got: There’s still so much unmet demand in ed tech. Maybe that’s just my growth mindset talking!

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