Economists define a collective action problem as one in which a collection of people (or organizations) each have an interest in seeing an action happen, but the cost of any one of them independently taking the action is so high that no action is taken — and the problem persists.
The world of education swirls with collective action problems. But when it comes to understanding the efficacy of education technology products and services, it’s a problem that costs schools and districts billions of dollars, countless hours, and (sadly) missed opportunities to improve outcomes for students.
Collectively, our nation’s K-12 schools and institutions of higher education spend more than $13 billion annually on education technology. And yet we have a dearth of data to inform our understanding of which products (or categories of products) are most likely to “work” within a particular school or classroom. As a result, we purchase products that often turn out to be a poor match for the needs of our schools or students. Badly matched and improperly implemented, too many fall short of their promise of enabling better teaching — and learning.