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InnovateEDU's Technology Portfolio: Enhancing EdTech Interoperability, Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Efficacy for All Learners


Education technology promises to transform learning by tailoring experiences to individual needs, supporting students with disabilities, and providing access to immersive experiences and global experts. However, billions are spent annually on edtech that is some combination of underused, inequitably used, and ineffectively used. According to Instructure, K-12 districts accessed an average of 2,591 tools during the 2022-23 school year, yet academic achievement and student engagement are at historic lows, with widening achievement gaps. The full potential of edtech in US education clearly remains unrealized.


Edtech decision-makers frequently choose solutions without sufficient information on their effectiveness in specific school contexts. Furthermore, the absence of robust R&D infrastructure hinders administrators, policymakers, and developers from determining which edtech tools to accelerate, build upon, and scale. The Institute for Education Sciences emphasizes the need to understand “what works, for whom, and under what conditions.”


Over the years, numerous initiatives have aimed to address these gaps, with the notion of 'efficacy in edtech' growing up alongside the industry. Efforts include product directories such as EdReports and Common Sense Media; credential issuers such as 1EdTech, Digital Promise, and Project Unicorn; and a variety of other approaches like LearnPlatform’s dashboards, associations’ communities of practice, and research projects. While there has been progress in enhancing district and school leaders' knowledge of privacy, security, interoperability, standards alignment, and their ability to identify and deploy effective solutions; however, the change is happening slowly. Currently, only a portion of the market is verified or certified, leaving many tools in classrooms without evidence of their effectiveness. The need for evidence-based decision-making to bridge supply and demand remains crucial.


The Edtech Evidence Exchange made a major contribution in 2021 with the publication of "The Edtech Genome Project Report." Developed with over 140 stakeholders, including edtech vendors, educators, school leaders, and researchers, the report establishes a common language for edtech implementation. It introduces the Context Framework, defining ten structural and cultural variables, and the Context Inventory, a validated survey tool. Crucially, the Exchange emphasized that 'context matters' in edtech, paving the way for large studies of implementation variables.


In 2022, InnovateEDU’s BIRD-E project advanced the field by releasing its Blueprint, a universal framework for generating usable, high-quality, accessible research for education providers, policymakers, researchers, and other K-12 stakeholders. This open-source tool helps practitioners equitably and effectively find and apply context-relevant evidence for every student. On a deeper level, the BIRD-E Blueprint lays the groundwork for future education research, addressing how tools, interventions, programs, and services work, for whom, and under what circumstances.


Despite these strides forward, there is still an urgent need to increase investment in education R&D and improve the ROI of edtech spending to enhance student outcomes. Despite these advancements, pandemic-related academic gap, looming fiscal challenges, and the rise of AI-based solutions add layers of complexity. To address these evolving dynamics, we must embrace new strategies to sustain and advance our efforts.


At InnovateEDU, we are responding to the evolving landscape by adopting a portfolio approach—aligning our projects under the banners of policy, sector and capacity building, and technology. This strategic realignment will streamline our processes and strengthen our collaborations with external partners. By leveraging the progress the Exchange and BIRD-E achieved, our technology portfolio aims to amplify the approaches of Project Unicorn, the EDSAFE AI Alliance, and other related workstreams to make an even greater impact moving forward. 


For example, these projects will continue to provide technical assistance on AI policy to schools and districts, partner industry leaders in Outcomes Based Contracting’s edtech cohort work, and support GETN-US in advancing R&D trialing networks, among other efforts. By moving beyond directories and credentials, these initiatives harness InnovateEDU’s unique supply- and demand-side approach to effectively address the complexities of evidence-based edtech development and implementation in new ways.


Our goal moving forward is to ensure that all students have access to the tools and resources they need to thrive. With a renewed focus on strategic partnerships and innovative solutions, we are poised to tackle the education sector's most pressing challenges. Together with our collaborators, we can drive meaningful change and improve educational outcomes for all learners.

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