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School culture, competing priorities, and teacher agency among the contextual variables selected for further research by the EdTech Genome Project, like these students sitting working on laptops and tablets.

10 reasons edtech works sometimes, but not all the time


School culture, competing priorities, and teacher agency among the contextual variables selected for further edtech implementation research

There are a number of factors—10, to be specific—that are likely to have a sizable impact on the success (or failure) of and edtech implementation.

The EdTech Genome Project, a collaborative effort of more than 100 education research and advocacy organizations, reached unanimous consensus on an initial list of those 10 factors hypothesized to have the greatest influence on whether an edtech implementation succeeds or fails.

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Over the coming year, project leads will study these variables in order to help schools and districts make better-informed decisions about selecting and implementing edtech tools that will work well in their contexts.

Each year, educators and school administrators spend more than $13 billion on more than thousands of technology tools and products. A growing body of research suggests, however, that the vast majority of these edtech tools are either a poor fit for a particular school, or are not implemented effectively.

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The identification of these 10 variables is part of the EdTech Genome Project’s ongoing effort to address this challenge and facilitate more effective use of education technology.

“We know that the effectiveness of technology in the classroom depends on a constellation of factors, from school culture to technical capacity to support from school and district leadership,” says Joseph South, chief learning officer at ISTE and co-chair of the project’s steering committee. “This is the first-ever effort to understand which of those factors matter the most and how to define them — critical steps in fulfilling the promise of using technology to improve outcomes for all students.”

The 10 implementation variables selected by the EdTech Genome Project as the most important for immediate research are:
1. Adoption Plans
2. Competing Priorities
3. Foundational Resources (Technology Resources, Operational Tech Support, Financial Resources)
4. Implementation Plans
5. Professional Learning (Development) / Support
6. School (Staff) Culture
7. Support from School and District Administration
8. Teacher Agency/Autonomy
9. Teacher Beliefs about Tech/Self-Efficacy & Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge
10. Vision for Teaching and Learning with Technology

Now that consensus has been reached on which ten variables to study first, the EdTech Genome Project is forming 10 national working groups that bring together leading researchers and practitioners with deep experience with each variable. Each working group will spend the next year examining existing evidence to determine how these variables can best be measured. The EdTech Genome project has set a goal of publishing a framework for educators and other stakeholders in late 2020.

“If implemented well, technology has the potential to make a dramatic impact on student achievement,” says Roya Salehi, Vice President of Customer Success for Lexia Learning, a Rosetta Stone company. “By coming together to study the most important implementation variables, educators and tech developers will come closer to realizing our shared goal of improving student outcomes.”

With support from philanthropic and social impact organizations including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Strada Education Network, and Carnegie Corporation of New York, the EdTech Genome Project is the first-ever sector-wide collaboration to solve this challenge and create a framework for better edtech decision-making. The project is led by the Jefferson Education Exchange, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development.

“The EdTech Genome Project was inspired, in large part, by Pearson’s Law, which states ‘that which is measured improves,’ and ‘that which is measured and reported improves exponentially,’” says Bart Epstein, president and CEO of the Jefferson Education Exchange and research associate professor at the Curry School. “Now that we’ve brought together and achieved consensus among a diverse group of voices in education on which contextual variables matter most, the next step is to agree on how to measure them. Doing this by the end of this year will help schools and districts dramatically improve the impact of education technology on student learning outcomes.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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