Jul 12 2018

Where Schools Need to Focus Their Ed Tech Efforts

While school districts may be eager to introduce technology solutions into their classrooms, it’s important to understand which investments will give the best returns.

The market for educational technology solutions is massive, with numerous gadgets and programs to choose from. 

For ambitious school districts with a limited budget, this can pose a challenge as finances need to be allocated toward the best investment with the greatest return.

A pervasive issue among K–12 districts is administrators going for the newest products without much knowledge of what problems those technologies address and whether they actually work.

“There are very few studies being done on the overall effectiveness of edtech interventions,” The Tech Edvocate reports. “This means that administrators can’t see what has produced better learning outcomes for students as a result of their purchases.”

Investing in the wrong technology too quickly can lead to extremely risky situations. A recent survey found hidden costs from implementing ineffective technology solutions can be as high as $220 per student

To shed light on this issue, Smart Technologies conducted a global Edtech Capabilities and Learning Outcomes survey for the K–12 sphere, evaluating 22 different ed tech solutions to find out which have shown to be most beneficial in the classroom.

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High-Outcome Schools Focus on Collaboration and Games

Inspecting the difference between schools with higher and lower student outcomes, higher-performing schools were much more likely to focus on tools that promoted student collaboration, assessments and games.

Authors speculate that these results point to an interest among high-performing schools to shift education programming toward student-centered pedagogies, which give students more control over their learning. 

According to survey results, giving students freedom to be a part of the decision-making process is more common among high-performing schools.

For those looking to adopt some of these policies, there are plenty of options available to help put a spotlight on these areas.

Introducing tools like Chromebooks can help foster a collaborative environment and can also be a great way to collect data in order to create more accurate student assessments.

A little more than 40 percent of high-outcome schools also reported using game-based programs in the classroom, compared to only 32 percent of low-outcome schools. With new virtual reality hardware bringing a fresh take to game-based learning, investing in more immersive classroom tools could be a good use of funding for students.

Use Ed Tech for Professional Development and Evaluation

While putting technology in the hands of students and teachers is a good way to empower learning, investing in technology that focuses on professional development is a much heavier focus in high-performing schools, researchers found.

In a ranking of importance of technology capabilities, leaders at high-outcome schools ranked professional-development planning, leadership vision, stakeholder alignment, professional learning and opportunities for collaborative professional development higher than those in low-performing schools.

Meanwhile, researchers found a large proportion of schools undervalued investing in areas like developing staff mindsets and acceptable technology use policies. While opportunities for collaborative professional development was ranked higher on the list for higher performing schools, it was also an area that had been undervalued. 

Taking actions, such as buying training software to help teachers better understand and teach with the technology integrated in their classrooms, would help boost the ROI. 

Similarly, bringing teachers into the fold when making decisions on what technologies will be most efficacious is essential for reaching those undervalued, high-impact capabilities.

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