As educational technology (“ed tech”) carves out a growing space for itself in classrooms at all levels, the proliferation of vendors and offerings has led to an understandable mistrust of the hundreds of flashy tools promising instantaneous improvements and rapid transformations in the classroom.
As a recent Inside Higher Ed article put it:
“Tech companies are the aliens of the education world, offering flashy solutions and promising rapid improvement — but how do educators decipher who is really here to help and who is just hungry for profit? From the skeptical educator’s perspective, ed-tech companies seem like an invading army, disrupting an ancient industry with unclear intentions.”
So How Can Educators Identify Tech They Can Trust?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Which of these vendors are truly looking to improve student outcomes, and which ones are just out there to make a buck? It’s not always easy to look past the bells and whistles or the heart-tugging mission statements to suss out the best options for your institution. But we’ve put together a few characteristics to look for as you determine which disruptors will really make a difference and which ones are just noise.
1. Research-Based Foundation
Start by looking under the hood. Is the product built on a solid foundation of academic research, educational best practices, and extensive testing in learning environments? Or is it simply a sleek application of the latest technology, packaged to look like a powerful educational resource? The latter is all well and good, and it may even have some positive impact in a classroom. But the products that are built with educators’ actual needs and students’ best interest in mind—that add technology to proven educational methods rather than forcing educational methods to fit the technology—are more likely to have a profound effect on learning.
2. Expert, Human Input
Next, look for the humans. Automation is a powerful tool (it’s our bread and butter, too, after all), but it’s important to understand whether and how humans are involved in the product strategy, design, and support. If the product is AI or machine learning driven, were the algorithms trained and supervised by experts in the particular subject the product handles? Or were they kickstarted from a set of prescribed rules and left to run on their own? And what about customer service? Are there humans ready to help you implement the product in your classroom and answer your questions as they arise? Or are you on your own once you’ve made your purchase? The level of care and attention—from human beings as well as bots—given at every phase of the product’s lifecycle is an important indicator of whether this particular tech is as interested in supporting students as in growing the bank account.
3. Measurable Outcomes
Finally, look at the outcomes. Can the vendor tell you how to measure the successof the product in your classroom or institution? Can they show you historical performance data? Or are they hanging onto glowing promises and hyperbole? The same Inside Higher Ed article puts it like this:
“These companies building modern tools for education should, in theory, have a common goal: to enrich learning for students and educators. On the surface that’s a dual bottom line, which means that positive social impact is measured as an equally important performance metric alongside revenue. But tech companies aren’t nonprofits, and unless a company explicitly states that it intends to have measurable social impact, we shouldn’t assume it does. Good intentions are just that with no accountability.”
A vendor that is truly as interested in the students’ performance as in the bottom line will have created and validated some way to quantify performance—showing you and your students that the investment is paying off.
Here at Quantified, we are undoubtedly (proudly) contributing to the ed-tech landscape, with a platform that uses machine learning to help students prepare for leadership in their professional lives by honing their critical communication skills. If you’re a higher-education professor or administrator looking to better prepare your students for post-grad life, we’d love to talk to you about the research-heavy foundation, expert guidance, and measurable success of our platform. Fill out the form below, and one of our experts will contact you to walk you through our platform and process.