Ask Yourself These Questions Before Saying EdTech Doesn’t Work

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A WSJ article described how Baltimore County, MD, public schools began going digital five years ago, but despite the investment, academic results have mostly slipped in this district of about 115,000 students.

There are several problems with this “finding.”

#1: What programs (software) were used and what were the intended outcomes of those programs?

#2: How was the impact of these programs measured?

#3: Were schools compared using standardized tests, twenty-first century skill inventories, or something else?

#4: How did teachers use the programs?  Were they given exact, some, or no guidelines?

#5: What professional development training did teachers receive?

We hear that technology is effective for improving academics in some schools, but doesn’t raise test scores in other schools. But this is a faulty way of comparing schools and assessing technology impact.

What if I told you a treadmill I bought didn’t “work?” You might want to know if and how I used it. Did I use it to hang clothes or to run to improve my cardiovascular health? How many days peer week did I use it? How many minutes a day? Did I lose weight? Did I follow some recommended guidelines, such as exercising at a specific heart rate? What were the “controls” of using a treadmill?  If I use a treadmill to lose weight but I eat too much, it’s not fair to say the treadmill doesn’t work.

Programs should be designed to achieve certain outcomes, and there should be appropriate ways to measure these outcomes.

I created an online diagnostic and prescriptive assessment and instructional delivery and student management system that has improved education outcomes for over 5,000,000 students. It delivers what it was designed to do. By using this system, every teacher can be successful – achieving constant, consistent, replicable, scalable, and incremental improvement – because it does not require superior teaching skills or years of experience. It allows for creativity and modification. It identifies changes that yield better results and incorporates those changes as best practices going forward. Changes that don’t produce better results are blocked.

This system delivers what it was designed to do. But it wouldn’t make sense to say this system doesn’t work because it doesn’t move the needle in areas or with outcomes it wasn’t designed for.

How do you use technology?  How do you measure outcomes?

The keys to making a successful education technology program include identifying appropriate outcomes and ways to measure them, controlling the operations and workflow (e.g. professional development), and ensuring best practices are followed.

I recommend getting a researcher involved to design a study that will fairly evaluate and measure your program goals results.

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