Office of Educational Technology launches free rapid evaluation tool for educational apps


The US Office of Educational Technology (OET) has launched the beta version of a new tool to help teachers evaluate the benefits of educational apps.

The Ed Tech Rapid Cycle Evaluation (RCE) Coach, designed in partnership with Mathematica, is a free, openly licensed, web-based platform designed to help schools and districts make more informed ed tech purchasing decisions.

The evaluation process starts with the school or district selecting an ed tech product or tool that it wants to assess. The RCE Coach then provides resources and scaffolding to guide and support practitioners through the evaluation process. This includes defining the desired outcomes, designing effective pilots, conducting evidence gathering and analysing results.

The aim is to change the procurement and implementation process, so as ‘to include a continuous cycle of evidence-based decision making and to help states and districts spend millions of dollars more effectively.’

The OET says the RCE Coach ‘will help educators determine whether the technology currently used or planning to be used in the future achieves its goals — for example, whether it is moving the needle on student achievement or teacher satisfaction. On this basis, districts, schools and practitioners can better determine whether to continue using a technology that they now have evidence for or to stop using a technology that is not effective.’

The launch of the new tool comes more than a year after the US Department of Education (DoE) announced a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Rapid-Cycle Technology Evaluations in response to the surge in high-speed broadband connectivity brought about by President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative. This set a goal of connecting 99 per cent of America’s students to next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries by 2018.

An article published in 2015 argued that realising the transformative potential of increased connectivity would depend largely on the availability of effective apps.

Over the next two years educators and parents will be making a huge number of decisions about which apps to use with kids. They need to make good decisions based on evidence, as opposed to relying on marketing hype or the buzz among a small group of peers…this is bigger than just knowing whether apps improve student academic performance. Many apps claim to reduce teacher time spent on administrative tasks, for examples, or increase parent engagement, or encourage collaboration among students. These are equally important data points that parents and educators alike should know when choosing which apps to present to their students.

The author Richard Culatta explained.

The beta version of the RCE Coach is designed to allow district-level and school-level administrators to analyse existing data by creating matched comparison groups. These typically consist of students with similar demographics and experiences attending different but similar schools. Practitioners can then compare groups of students who are using a chosen app with groups who are not.

In January 2017 the OET plans to add two additional research designs that will help districts and schools who are either starting pilots of ed tech solutions that they have already identified, or that have identified issues and are looking to select and pilot ed tech solutions.

Districts interested in testing these designs can register an interest here.


About Contributors

Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

Leave A Reply