Bridging the Disconnect Between Edtech Research and Educators
The exhibitor floor at a major edtech convention must be seen to be believed: hundreds of vendors with thousands of new products vie for the attention of exited-but-exhausted looking teachers and administrators. Every single product promises to revolutionize education by engaging students and teaching them more, better, faster. But you’d have to be naïve to think that every single one of those products can deliver on its promises. Instead, it is time to bridge the disconnect between edtech researchers and educators.
But What about the Data?
Because it is so easy to perform data analysis with an edtech product, every vendor is able to claim impressive numbers about their products. Of course, there is absolutely no external vetting needed in order to be able to make a claim in promotional material. The process for getting the work into a peer-reviewed, top-notch academic journal is entirely different, and virtually none of those exorbitant claims would survive such scrutiny. The wise consumer of edtech will need to consult a database of legitimate research in order to determine what does and does not actually work.
Where Are the Reviews?
Of course, not every edtech product has been reviewed by an academic journal, which can make the vetting process pretty difficult. There are still resources that can help, such as Common Sense Media, which offers reviews of apps and websites geared to kids, with an eye to the pedagogical implications of the educational offerings. It’s an excellent clearinghouse for bringing information about a wide variety of digital tools to the end user.
But How to Keep Up?
It seems like every day brings a new edtech product into existence; even the most diligent teacher will have a hard time keeping up with what is out there, let alone vetting it the way that an educational researcher would. There are some tools that can help. For example, MERLOT is an aggregator of vetted digital tools, and it is easily searchable. It features not only a user rating but also a peer review. They tag items as editor’s choice and “classic” materials in order to further guide users, and the peer reviews are particularly helpful.
It can be easy to give in to the hype and will yourself to believe everything that a manufacturer claims about their edtech product. After all, the latest generation of edtech contains stunning advances over what the technology allowed as recently as a decade ago. But flash and sizzle are no substitute for solid research. It can be a daunting task to dig into the data and investigate whether a product actually lives up to the hype surrounding it, but there is no doubt that the effort is worth it since the success of our students depends on it.