- With the massive increase in ed tech and, as a result, education apps, schools continue to boost their invest in these programs — but in the end, they don't really use them, EdSurge reports.
- Schools that don't properly utilize the apps they buy won't see much of an impact on student outcomes, Ryan Baker, director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Learning Analytics and co-author of a study from K-12 data management company BrightBytes, told EdSurge. He added that regardless of a school's demographics, implementation and assessment are what matter most in boosting their effectiveness.
- The BrightBytes study examined 390,000 students' tech usage among 48 school districts, and the report noted that measuring apps' impact on learning outcomes could be separated into three categories:
- Investment — cost, the number purchased, and the time and effort devoted to using them.
- Engagement — the number of students who use apps, how they use them and for how long, and their reactions.
- Impact — how they affect their performance.
As new innovations disrupt what has, until now, been considered traditional classroom structure, educational apps have made headway in becoming popular investments for schools in transitioning to a more tech-oriented space. Just as other forms of ed tech present opportunities for new ways to learn, these apps can provide teachers with new, fun and interesting ways to explain material and fresh perspectives students can use to grasp it. Apps can facilitate students' access to infinite amounts of information, increase their engagement in course material, and boost their understanding of these subjects; in turn, they can help lead to greater collaboration, better grades and more positive outcomes as a whole.
However, as is typically the case, if something isn't used as directed, it won't work the way it's supposed to. So, if an ed tech app provider says students should use their program a certain amount and they don't, schools aren't getting much out of their investment. And, as is also typically the case, money isn't an unlimited resource — especially for schools. Funding has repeatedly been deemed a top issue for schools and districts, and the increased demand for money — thanks to more necessary investments and pricey technologies — hasn't been met with a rise in incoming dollars. If a district is going to spend a chunk of an already limited pile of funds, it's key to make sure their chosen expenditures are a bang for their buck.
That said, apps — and ed tech as a whole — aren't the be-all, end-all solution to improving student performance and transforming K-12 education. Too much screen time can have negative effects on users, and virtual learning methods can't fully replace in-person interactions that students need in learning socialization and communication skills. As new technology rollouts continue to capture the public's attention, school leaders should thoroughly research products and their schools' needs before rushing to fill their buildings with the newest gadgets. Getting teacher feedback, instituting a trial period when possible, doing research and sticking to a plan can set schools up for ed tech success.