Edtech…We Have A Problem

Gallup published an article today titled “Educators Agree on the Value of Ed Tech”. With a title like that…what could go wrong? In this article, many pertinent questions were asked of students, teachers, principals, and administrators about ed tech in the classroom and schools. Gallup being Gallup, they published an abundance of statistical data about their findings. I’d like to sort through some of this and voice my concerns. I’m not trying to be cynical, but I am quite critical of any new gadget, initiative, or strategy that I consider for use by my students in my classroom. It’s not because I’m ‘old school’ or anything, I just want to know that this new strategy or gadget I will be using will actual positively impact learning…if not, what’s the point?

To start, I’d like to look at ed tech usage in the classroom. Some statistics from the article:

-89% of students report using digital learning tools at least a few days a week.

-At least 8 in 10 teachers (81%), principals (88%) and administrators (92%) strongly agree or agree that they see great value in using digital learning tools in the classroom now, and slightly more among each group see great value in using them in the future.

-Most teachers (85%), principals (96%) and administrators (96%) fully or somewhat support the increased use of digital learning tools in their school — though more principals (71%) and administrators (75%) fully support increased use than do teachers (53%).

So, students are using digital learning tools…teachers, principals, and administrators see great value in these tools and support the increased usage of these tools. 

Now, here’s where things get a little blurry. Another group of questions goes into the effectiveness of ed tech tools on learning. Here are the numbers:

11 learning activities were studied. A majority of teachers believe these activities are effective or extremely effective. That’s really strong. Personally, I would question how they know the edtech is effective with these learning activities, but that’s another topic for another blog post.

Side note: I do think it’s interesting that on 8 of the 9 learning activities, both principals and administrators see ed tech tools as more effective than the classroom teacher…the person tasked with actually using the tools.

All of this seems in stark contrast with another set of questions and statistics:

“While educators think digital tools are effective for many learning activities, they need more information to gauge their effectiveness. Fewer than three in 10 teachers (27%), principals (25%) and administrators (18%) say there is a lot of information available about the effectiveness of the digital learning tools they use. About half of teachers (49%) say they have some information about the learning tools they use in their classroom, while 24% say they have little or no information at all.”

Wait…so a vast majority of teachers believe ed tech tools are extremely effective…but also believe we need more information to gauge their effectiveness. 

What? 

That’s a problem. 

But I can’t say I’m too surprised. Teachers want to believe the methods they use in class are effective. Ed tech companies need all to believe their product is the best. District administrators don’t want to believe they’ve spent an exorbitant amount of money on some tech tool that doesn’t work.  

I don’t really blame the teachers. We should be able to trust that those tasked with making these ed tech purchases are doing their homework. I’m not sure it’s fair to expect a classroom teacher to also research the validity and reliability of the tech tools. 

I do place some of the onus on those at the school/district level with the power to purchase these tools. These people should do the homework; consider how this gadget or system will impact the classroom. Is there evidence of its effectiveness? If not, ask companies for the research. Ask for the statistics. They don’t have any? That’s a red flag. Don’t buy that tool. If they had any evidence at all that ‘it’ worked, they would surely tell you all about it.

I levy most of the blame at the tech companies. In their race to be the best, I fear they may be cutting some corners on the research front. I’m begging you…for the good of my students, for education, for the future of the world, and for my district’s budget…please spend a bit of your money, conduct some quality studies, and provide at least some information on your product’s effectiveness. Please. You say you already do that? Well, then please make it more easily accessible. According to this poll, 27% of teachers, 25% of principals, and 18% of administrators believe there is a lot of information available on the effectiveness of these digital learning tools. 

Again, I’m not trying to be cynical of all things tech, I am just very critical. It seems every school year there is a new gadget or tool that should revolutionize education…but they never deliver. As a teacher, I’m tired of wasting my time and my student’s time on digital tools that either don’t improve instruction, or worse, hinder it. We all deserve better.

3 comments

  1. You seem to be discounting the teacher’s assessment of the effectiveness of technology in their own classroom. Of course I would want more information about the effectiveness of the tools and techniques that I am using – even while I see their effectiveness directly for my own learners. These things are not mutually exclusive.

  2. I wonder how Kinephonics would go in this survey. It is an inclusive digital learning tool that enables teachers to conduct speech, language and communication training with their students in every context. We are educators who are trying to make a difference. We have a foundational learning concept, recognised in neuroscience in 2011, which we have put into a digital space and we are moving forward slowly and sustainably working with language learning schools to start with…. We are not promising to be the ‘fix all’ EduTech but we are promising to work with the educators to help their students see progress and to help the administrators see the degree of influence that teachers have in the progress of their students.

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