Educators Wary of Ed-Tech Company Research: New study outlines lack of go-to sources

Publisher 
Education Week
Author 
Michele Molnar and Michelle R. Davis
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Excerpt 

Most educators believe educational technology companies are not qualified to conduct valid research about their products, a new survey finds.

Yet the survey also found they rarely consult the What Works Clearinghouse—considered the "gold standard" by academic researchers—to determine the effectiveness of such products.

That puts them in a difficult spot, having to make decisions about the products without really knowing their efficacy.

Those are among the key findings and insights from the Education Research Perspectives Survey, recently released by the International Society for Technology in Education and the Jefferson Education Exchange, a nonprofit that aims to help educators and education leaders make better informed decisions about ed-tech.

In the nationally representative survey of 1,124 teachers, principals, district administrators, and technology leaders—60 percent of whom are ISTE members—76 percent felt that ed-tech vendors were not qualified to conduct valid research about their products, yet 48 percent still look at vendors' sites to get information about those tools.

When he reviews research sponsored by companies, "I take it with a grain of salt," said David Quinn, the director of technology integration for the 2,400-student Mendon-Upton Regional school district in Massachusetts. "It's not that it's invalid, but I understand that sometimes it is advocacy research."

Natalie Makulski, a 3rd grade teacher at Botsford Elementary School in Livonia, Mich., who is finishing a Ph.D. in educational technology, considers vendor-provided research but wants to know whether the company's study has been conducted by an independent researcher.

"I really want to know what the teacher does with it in their classroom, because that's the real jungle," she said. "But I do enjoy the company perspective as well."

What Clearinghouse?

Makulski searches for studies on GoogleScholar. Yet she and Quinn do not regularly consult the What Works Clearinghouse, a repository of federally funded research under the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences.

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