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UW Faculty Member to Serve on EdTech Genome Project Committee

November 6, 2019
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Barbara Hickman

A University of Wyoming education assistant professor in the School of Counseling, Leadership, Advocacy and Design will serve on the 30-member steering committee for the EdTech Genome Project.

As part of the committee, Barbara Hickman, in UW’s College of Education, will join leaders from education and research organizations, including the Society for Technology in Education, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Gallup and the American Institutes for Research, as well as teachers and technology leaders from seven public school districts across the country.

The EdTech Genome Project is a first-of-its-kind initiative with a vision to create an evidence-based framework to help educators make better-informed decisions about what technology to use in their classrooms and how to implement it most effectively.

“Educational technology presents exciting opportunities to improve equity and to increase the experiences that a student can access. However, edtech also presents challenges in selection, implementation and support,” Hickman says. “For our rural communities, these challenges may be exacerbated by distance, personnel and the investment of time and financial resources. I’m pleased to have been selected to work with the EdTech Genome Project on these and other issues, and to provide a perspective that highlights Wyoming school districts and directly relates to my own research on implementation science.”

The project is designed to address a critical collective action problem in education technology. Each year, educators and school administrators spend more than $13 billion on more than 7,000 technology tools and products. But, because most purchasing decisions are chiefly influenced by word of mouth or internet searches, an estimated 85 percent of edtech tools are either a poor fit for a particular school or are not implemented effectively.

Yet, there is no system through which educators can report the results of their implementations so that others may learn from them. As a result, billions of dollars continue to be wasted on tools and products that do not meaningfully improve student outcomes -- despite the best of intentions by all involved.

Backed by philanthropic and social impact organizations, including Strada Education Network, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the project will draw on extensive research and direct outreach with educators to identify up to 10 contextual variables associated with edtech implementation success or failure.

Once the stakeholders reach consensus on the list of variables, up to 10 national working groups will be formed by bringing together the leading researchers and practitioners with deep experience in each variable. Each working group will then spend a year examining existing evidence and measurement instruments as each group works to reach consensus about how implementation factors such as “teacher agency,” “initiative fatigue,” “quality of professional development,” and other technical and cultural factors can be quantified.

“The way we use -- and misuse -- education technology has profound costs in not just economic, but equity terms,” says Bart Epstein, president and CEO of the Jefferson Education Exchange and a research associate professor at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development. “This effort is about empowering educators and administrators by providing them access to the hard-earned experiences of their peers nationwide. Better understanding of what works where and why will enable them to fulfill the promise of technology to improve outcomes for all students.”

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