Giving Compass' Take:

The author provides five ways that educators can utilize edtech research to make sure that it can accurately work in their classrooms and engage their students toward academic achievement.

How can the research be more transparent and researchers accountable? Can they work more with educators and students on a trial basis to see if edtech products are effective?

• Read more about collective action around successful implementation of edtech research and products. 

At various conferences that feature innovations in education and technology, we’ve been hearing about a rebellion against the way the federal Education Department wants research to be conducted. The department’s approach has anointed the randomized control trial as the gold standard for demonstrating that a product, program, or policy caused an outcome.

Here’s the problem: Good implementation of a program can translate into gains on education outcomes, such as improved achievement, reduction in discipline referrals, and retention of staff. But without evidence that the product itself caused a gain, all you are measuring are the ease of implementation and staff and student engagement. You wouldn’t be able to say whether the educators and students were wasting their time with a product that doesn’t work.

Educators can join this movement by expecting any ed tech product being pitched to district staff to have at least a rationale for why it should work for them (required in the Every Student Succeeds Act’s base level of evidence). Beyond expecting some level of evidence, educators should take these actions.

  • Develop a community with other districts or with professional organizations to share results, since one study can never provide a clear picture of the product’s effectiveness.
  • Invite companies to run studies in your district
  • Consider participation in a pilot, in which a representative set of schools (not just the lowest-performing) or teachers (not just the most experienced) uses the product.
  • Keep in mind that research organizations may meet privacy requirements for data sharing more easily than the companies.
  • Be prepared to allow a research organization to survey teachers, but ensure there is a purposeful and convincing rationale for the additional burden.

Read the full article about making edtech research better by Denis Newman and Hannah D'Apice at The 74