New Inequality Dashboard Charts National Education Technology

The $1.9 trillion US bailout allocates an estimated $122 billion to kindergarten through secondary education in part to “address disruptions in teaching and learning caused by the pandemic” and/or “support educators in the effective use of technology.”

this is good. It is likely to be a problem.

The good is clear – spending money to improve educational resources and access to education, especially now.

The potential pitfall is that no one really knows what “Teaching and Learning Disorders” were. Or, for that matter, what “effective use of technology” looks like. Anyone might be able to guess, but when it comes to knowing what those are, and where they are – we’re all just guessing.

Three recent quotes highlight the lack of light on educational technology.

Bart Epstein, CEO of EdTech Evidence Exchange and Associate Professor of Research in the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development, said.

“Sometimes the status quo feels like the Wild West — which is why it is so important to provide teachers with the information they need to make the right choices for their classrooms,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium of School Networks (CoSN).

“We are in the midst of one of the largest funding events in education history and this requires commitment and understanding that if we do not use this moment to serve all students, it is a missed opportunity,” said Karl Rictanos, co-founder and CEO of LearnPlatform, a digital dashboard that helps teachers and school leaders Track and evaluate their use of education technology in real time. “In education, we basically want to help all students succeed but we have limited vision and a limited fact base to enrich the decision-making process,” he said.

For example, we think we know that there is an equality gap in educational technology. We think there’s a digital divide, too. This is the difference between those families and communities that have effective broadband Internet access and those that do not. As mentioned, the problem was to measure it or be able to see it in a way that was more than just a vague understanding.

That’s why LearnPlatform, the company run by Rectanus, is a huge step forward, and a huge step forward, today from what it calls the National Education Technology Stock Dashboard.

The New Year Resource calculates the actual daily use of education technology products nationwide, and data collected from 3.3 million teacher and student users across more than 9,000 education products, culminating in an estimated 61 billion page load records. It is not comprehensive, of course. But plotting the actual daily usage rates of 9,000 edtech tools in real time seems very comprehensive.

Honestly, I didn’t realize there were 9,000 edtech products out there, and that’s partly the point. We have no idea what is, on the market, in use or unused on any given day. And if we do not know it, it is inconceivable to know what is “effective use of technology” and what is not.

But where this dashboard may provide real insight, it separates uses of technology and devices by poor and not-too-poor areas. It is baked into the dashboard layout.

And certainly, as we’ve long expected, when you actually measure who’s using educational technology, the gap is real, big, persistent, and in some cases even widening.

“We knew even before Covid that there was an equality gap in digital learning with the transition to hybrid or distance learning, and we had a feeling it was expanding or changing,” said Rictanos. “Now that we can plot it and show it to people, we see the famous K-shaped recovery in which those with increased access engaged more while those with less access engaged in learning resources less.”

Perhaps this is not news, but its presence in numbers, on the chart anyone can and everyone can see is still important. You can’t begin to solve a problem until you can identify it. And we can’t solve digital or technology inequality unless we know where to start, and where to invest the money that’s pouring in from Congress.

“If education had a common facts base, we could all focus on what was best for each student and not just use our best guess based on data from years gone by,” Rictanos said. Or worse yet, to base our guesses on intuition. Or worse yet, to base our guesses on absolutely nothing.

We can do better. It’s great news that we may be getting started.

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