Jun 04 2018

ISTE Partners Teachers and Vendors to Revamp Classroom Tools

Creators of the upcoming initiative look to create a feedback loop to optimize classroom applications

Technology is becoming ubiquitous in daily classroom activities, opening a floodgate for education application development. However, as companies strive to create the optimal tools for teachers, they continue to overlook a key factor: communication with educators pre-application launch

In response, the International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE) plans to launch the Ed-Tech Advisor initiative

The ISTE Ed-Tech Advisor will enable teachers and app developers to improve education tools during development, bringing much needed fixes to the current creation cycle, according to Richard Culatta, CEO of ISTE. 

“It’s like, imagine if you were at a restaurant, and they kept serving out food, but never asked if the food was any good,” Culatta explained in April at the 2018 ASU + GSV Summit in San Diego. “This is what we have in education, and it is ridiculous, and it is not sustainable.”

The new platform will allow developers to target the educators most relevant to their apps based on location, subject, grade and experience, according to an EdWeek Market Brief

Participants will be able to answer specific questions about inventoried apps, like how it’s being used and who is using them. 

A Good Education App Goes Beyond Star Ratings

This kind of contextualized feedback is missing from current systems, like ratings in app stores, according to Culatta.

“The one con [with store rating feedback] is the product is already created, so if you’re trying to create a product with educator input, it’s sort of too late,” Culatta said at the summit. “The other problem is it completely ignores context. So when you see a five-star rating or a three-star rating you can say, ‘Oh it’s a mediocre app.’ But it turns out it’s not a mediocre app — it’s a five-star app if you use it with English language learners in high school.”

Other review processes, like using programs built into the apps to send back user behavior data, have similar problems, said Mr. Culatta.

The proposed initiative builds off some of the programs ISTE provides now for developers and educators, which should make it more intuitive for ISTE’s 25,000 members

Currently, teachers can connect with each other through professional learning networks, and developers can get feedback from a panel of ISTE-trained professionals with its Seal of Alignment program. This new initiative allows these two communities to interact directly.

Successful Apps Start with Teacher Feedback

The power of teacher feedback is stunning, with some applications already successfully using it

ClassDojo, a classroom communication tool, used feedback from 20,000 teachers to design an app that would work best for educators, and is now used in 90 percent of K-8 classrooms, according to its website.

"Why don't we just go to the people doing the work?" said CEO and co-founder Sam Chaudhary, Forbes reports. "It sounds obvious, but it wasn't being done."

So far, ISTE has launched a pilot program, inviting 150 educators to use and review listed tools over the span of four weeks. 

A beta of the program will launch in June for ISTE members, with an official announcement expected in the coming weeks.

“If we can’t do this, we’re toast,” said Culatta. “If we can pull this off, we can totally change the world.”

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