How to Decide if the Research on an Edtech Product is Valid
Every edtech tool has a gorgeous website that promises outstanding results with their product. You know that you can’t just trust what the marketing folks tell you, but what does it take to determine whether the research on an edtech product is valid? Here are some steps you can take to ensure that you are making the best possible decisions about edtech products:
First, was the research published in a legitimate journal? You can use this database of journals to determine whether the research has been vetted by an adequate source. Remember, anyone can announce on their website that they have performed a study showing stellar results, but publication in a journal indicates that the research has been legitimized by peer reviewers. The peer review process is the backbone of academic research because it means that several people with expertise have reviewed the research results and are willing to vouch for their validity. If the research was not peer-reviewed, you should probably not consider it when you evaluate an edtech product. It’s too easy for unreviewed research to simply reflect the hopes and wishes of the vendor instead of the hard reality of the tool’s performance.
Second, dig into the data. Be sure that you understand the details of the research. Anything that is published is likely to reflect a positive outcome, but what exactly was that outcome? Was the sample size adequate? It’s easy to get the results you want if you only test your edtech tool on a dozen carefully-selected students, but that is not enough to establish that the tool will work well for a variety of students. Was the product tested with students who are learning English? Was it tested with special education students? Do the demographics of the test population mirror your student population? And, how big of an impact did the tool have? If it only created marginal results, it may not be worth the investment and the opportunity costs to you.
Third, once you have implemented a tool, be sure to conduct your performance analysis. This is easier than you might think thanks to tools such as the Edtech RCE Coach, which will guide you through the process. No matter what the published research shows, what counts is how the tool works in your unique context. You have a responsibility to continue testing the product to be sure that it is meeting the needs of your students.