Jan 23 2017

Department of Education Creates New Evaluation Tool for K–12 Administrators

A simplified ed tech evaluation process is on the horizon.

With new mobile apps and technology tools popping up constantly, schools have a variety of options when it comes to picking something that might work in a class. But, is there an easy way to make sure the tool will be good for students?

Last year, the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology requested a better way to help schools evaluate ed tech tools.

“[We want to] establish a standard for low-cost, quick turnaround evaluations of apps, and field test rapid-cycle evaluations,” wrote the Education Department’s Richard Culatta and Katrina Stevens in a blog post.

Enter the Ed Tech Rapid Cycle Evaluation (RCE) Coach, which the department developed in partnership with the research organization Mathematica. Now available in beta, the RCE Coach is a free, online platform designed to make evaluation of educational tech tools more efficient.

“The RCE Coach will help educators determine whether the technology currently used or planning to be used in the future achieves its goals,” the department noted in announcing the tool in October 2016.

“On this basis, districts, schools and practitioners can better determine whether to continue using a technology that they now have evidence for or to stop using a technology that is not effective.”

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Educational Technology Experts Weigh In on Evaluation

In an editor’s letter on EdNET Insight, Anne Wujcik writes that the RCE Coach isn’t inherently designed to help schools evaluate tools before they waste class time using them.

“In its current form, the RCE Coach includes all the tools needed to conduct a backwards-looking evaluation of a technology a district has already implemented with a subset of schools, teachers, or students,” she writes.

But, Wujcik reports, the tool could be helpful to app developers to see what the Education Department is emphasizing in evaluation.

An article on The Hechinger Report argues that the RCE Coach will help give insight quickly to teachers who don’t have educational researchers working with them as they launch new tools.

“Teachers and schools aren’t waiting for gold-standard research before they begin test-driving new tools in the classroom,” the article reports. “The tool will not provide the same results as working closely with a traditional researcher, but it will allow schools to measure if technology is helping them meet whatever goal school leaders have set for themselves.”


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