#116 – Equity-Driven Selection, Implementation, and Evaluation of Ed Tech

Unpacking Education September 21, 2022 51 min

The purchase and implementation of educational technology exploded in response to the pandemic and were driven by the need to shift to tech-dependent hybrid and remote learning models. These shifts took place in a remarkably short period of time, and in many cases, the condensed timeline forced school leaders to make quick decisions based on limited research. Now that the pace of acquisition and implementation has slowed down, districts are beginning to reflect on the ed tech they had quickly purchased and integrated.

To aid districts in selecting, implementing, and evaluating educational technology, the Massachusetts Department of Education, in collaboration with The Learning Accelerator, has developed a comprehensive guide and companion workbook. This resource is available free online. In this podcast episode, we are joined by two representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Education, Jackie Gantzer and Andréa (A.J.) Coté, and a representative from The Learning Accelerator, Jin-Soo Huh. Together, we explore this helpful resource, including what it contains and how districts can best use it.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected.

White House FACT SHEET: The American Jobs Plan

Unpacking the Guide

EdTech Systems Guide: Equity-Driven Selection, Implementation, and Evaluation was created in response to requests from districts about how to make sure their technology implementation was done intentionally and effectively. Based on questions, input, and feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, the Massachusetts Department of Education and The Learning Accelerator collaborated to create this comprehensive guide and workbook. During our podcast conversation, we unpack the guide and explore how it might be used in school systems.

  • Origin of the Guide: After purchasing large amounts of technology during the pandemic, school systems began grappling with what to keep as they moved back to face-to-face learning. What would they keep and scale? What no longer had the same value? In response to these types of questions, the Massachusetts Department of Education launched an Ed Tech Leaders Network to discuss these issues and get feedback from local stakeholders. Ultimately, districts asked if there was a way the department could provide resources and guidance to help them through this process. These requests led to the development of the guide.
  • The Need: Tech leaders were stretched thin during the pandemic and needed help consolidating the ed tech procurement process into one convenient, easy-to-navigate location. During the Tech Leaders Network meetings, attendees requested help accessing a well-articulated approach to ed tech decision-making, something that would keep the process aligned with district visions and goals and lead to student success.
  • A Commitment to Equity: The Massachusetts Department of Education found a partner in The Learning Accelerator. Part of what made this a perfect match was their shared commitment to equity. In the final document, users can find intentional equity pauses at each step of the process. These pauses help to maintain an equity lens throughout the entire document. There are also callouts for special education and English learners.
  • Two Guides: Before creating the selection, implementation, and evaluation guide, the department of education had created EdTech Strategic Planning Guide: Sustaining Progress in Access and Equity. This guide established a solid foundation upon which the second guide was developed.
  • Consistently Engaging Stakeholders: Getting feedback from stakeholders cannot be a one-and-done event. It must be ongoing. Even now, after this document has been published, the creators continue to seek feedback. What is working? What did they get right? Where can they improve the process? Are there specific district examples and artifacts they can include? All of this feedback continually makes the product stronger.
  • Center Equity: Many people say they are committed to equity, but what are they actively doing to honor that commitment? The equity pauses integrated throughout this document provide concrete questions to help keep an active eye on equity. Equity reflection must happen in order to create the best process for all stakeholders. One panelist comments: “We’re really talking about equity . . . We want equitable educational experiences for all of our students, and hopefully, this guide is a stepping stone for that.”
  • Vision Alignment: The panel offers a key question: “What is your vision for what you want students to experience when they’re at school, and how can you build those systems around that central vision?” This focus on vision is important in preventing technology from operating in a silo; it must align with all school decisions in service of the overall mission.
  • Organization: The guide is broken up into three sections: selection, implementation, and evaluation. Each section is broken down into activities with a corresponding workbook and embedded equity pauses. Districts may complete the guide in sequence from start to finish or engage in the steps that are most meaningful to their current situation. The guide is available online and is free.
  • Artifacts and Feedback: The developers of this guide continue to see input on their product. If you have artifacts you’d like to submit for inclusion in the guide, or if you have general feedback for the development team, you may email them at [email protected].

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What is your district’s approach and process for selecting new educational technology (both hardware and software)?
  • What is your district’s approach and process for effectively implementing new educational technology (both hardware and software)?
  • What is your district’s approach and process for evaluating new educational technology (both hardware and software)?
  • What educational technology did you implement during the pandemic that may require further evaluation?
  • What educational technology did you implement during the pandemic that continues to get significant use in classrooms?
  • What input have you received from your stakeholders that might help guide your technology selection, implementation, and evaluation process?
  • Are your ed tech processes equitable?
  • How might your district use the EdTech Systems Guide: Equity-Driven Selection, Implementation, and Evaluation to strengthen your ed tech processes?

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