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New Coalition Aims to Create a Federated Edtech Data System

This week, several edtech giants (ISTE, InnovateEDU/Project Unicorn, Digital Promise, the Edtech Evidence Exchange, and the Center for Education Market Dynamics) announced a coalition with the United States Department of Education that aims to dramatically improve the collection and distribution of data about education technology in America’s schools. There have long been silos to this data, and this coalition wants to change that.

The Walton Family Foundation is providing funding for the “Edtech Evidence Exchange” in order to create a federated edtech data system, including financial requirements, data security and privacy protocols, strategies for engaging with the broader edtech industry, involvement of other edtech data sources, and coordination with industry, philanthropy, and the U.S. Department of Education.

The Edtech Evidence Exchange noted that “Research from the EdTech Evidence Exchange suggests that prior to the pandemic, the U.S. was spending between $25 and $41 billion per year on education technology — but approximately half of those purchases were used ineffectively, materially underused, or unused entirely. A key cause of this ongoing waste is that schools and districts currently lack the incentive and mechanisms necessary to learn from each other’s experiences.”

The group believes that education technology solutions hold the power to accelerate learning and provide tools and support for students, but also believes too many educators are making decisions with very little data or information. According to the press release, “Too many edtech decisions are made in the dark — or worse, on the basis of savvy marketing rather than contextualized research,” said Mindy Frisbee, ISTE’s Chief Research and Development Officer. “This is about shedding light on our nation’s complex and fragmented edtech market, to help educators and administrators make better-informed decisions about the tools they choose to bring to their students.”

COVID-19 took the edtech market to a whole new level. Inviting many new products into districts across the country. It is great to see so many companies trying to solve problems for districts, but with the ESSER funds, it really has been the wild wild west for products in this market.

There have been companies created to try and help districts understand software that is or isn’t being used in the classroom, but a federated data system would allow districts to learn from each other and scale the strategies and tools that work. Congress has always emphasized Evidence-based interventions, and this system could be a key component to shortening that process and creating a database that shows options and how to implement with fidelity. This is a missing tool for districts as they make decisions on edtech to use in their districts, and K20Connect wishes them all the best as they begin this work.

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