US Dept of Education Supports Initiative to Give Educators More Power in Edtech Decision-Making

RALEIGH, N.C., Oct. 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — LearnPlatform, which is now used by schools and districts serving more than 4 million students to organize, streamline and analyze their edtech, today announced that it has received a second federal grant to expand a program that helps educators share information, and make better-informed decisions, about the education technology tools they use in their classrooms.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, through the research-focused Institute of Education Sciences (IES), has awarded $874,803 to the Learn – Implementation in Context (Learn-IXC) initiative, a project led by LearnPlatform, to understand the context in which technologies work best. LearnPlatform, whose edtech effectiveness system is widely adopted by educators, districts and states, is a for-benefit research organization committed to expanding equitable access for all students to the teaching and technology that works best for them.

This is the second time IES has supported the Learn-IXC project to advance data collection and sharing of information on the effectiveness of edtech solutions in particular situations and classroom settings.  In 2019, LearnPlatform received a highly competitive $200,000 SBIR grant in Phase 1 of the initiative to help educators document their experiences using edtech products. The successful first phase validated the need – and methods – to help inform better decision-making by educators while also giving edtech developers insights to help them improve their solutions. Larger Phase II awards are considered a more rigorous and competitive process, with only five other grants given in 2020.

During Phase II, LearnPlatform will gather and report more insights from educators to create an algorithm for matching educators and administrators with reports from other educators facing similar circumstances.

With the new algorithm, teachers will be able to access reviews of edtech products by using clear, simple search terms such as “educators like me” and “districts like mine.” Educators will get results that take into account user reviews, school and district characteristics and usage data.

“Educators and administrators are overwhelmed by the sheer number of edtech tools, let alone how little information is available about how well those tools work,” said Karl Rectanus, CEO of LearnPlatform. “While we already help decision-makers determine if the solutions are working in their schools, educators often ask ‘but how will these new tools work for MY situation?’ This Phase II work will provide  educators and administrators who are responsible for making edtech decisions with research-based reliable, contextualized information necessary so they can find the right tools for their students.”

In addition, this grant positions LearnPlatform to be the first commercial provider to leverage the findings of the EdTech Genome Project, an initiative which has brought together the education sector in order to build consensus on how to define and measure the most important edtech implementation variables. The EdTech Genome Project is led by the nonprofit EdTech Evidence Exchange, formerly the Jefferson Education Exchange, a collaboration between the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development and Strada Education Network.

“Too often, traditional approaches to evaluating education technology fail to translate to practice — because they don’t take into account the unique contexts of each school and classroom,” said Bart Epstein, founder and CEO of the EdTech Evidence Exchange. “This grant is helping to advance critical research efforts that will not only make the process of data-informed decision making much easier for educators, but can also help education technology providers implement their products more effectively.”

Phase II also will provide critical insights for edtech product providers to improve their own products, through access to reports and summaries of the effectiveness of their products for students and educators in many different conditions.

About LearnPlatform

LearnPlatform is a comprehensive edtech effectiveness system used by more than 240,000 educators to save time, save money and improve outcomes. The research-driven technology, central office automation and data-rich insights and services equip school districts, states and their partners to organize, streamline and analyze their edtech interventions to ensure learning ecosystems are safe and cost-effective for all students. For more information, visit learnplatform.com.

About SBIR

The U.S. Department of Education’s  Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, operated through the Institute of Education Sciences, provides funding to small businesses and partners to research and develop innovative ideas into commercial solutions that address problems in education. ED/IES SBIR provides grants of up to $1.1M in two phases to for-profit technology firms for the research and development, and evaluation of commercially viable education technology products that support relevant student or teacher outcomes in education or special education.

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