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Column Pushes Admins Not to Trust Ed-Tech Research

In a column in this month's issue of School Administrator, Richard Rose encourages readers to trust their own experiences with educational technology rather than be swayed by research that, he says, is very likely biased toward the technology it is studying.

That bias, he says, extends well beyond market research funded by vendors, and into studies by nonprofit companies who depend on those vendors or their philanthropic foundations for grant funding. He also suggests research from groups such as teachers' unions, which may not be directly influenced by technology companies, may still feel pressure from the public at large to be supportive of any and all technology causes.

Instead of trusting any of that research, Rose, a former engineer with Microsoft and current program director for educational technology and instructional design at West Texas A&M University, says administrators should base decisions off what they see in their own districts:

The answer comes from the knowledge that, like politics, all useful educational technology knowledge is local. The best course is to place small bets on the best guesses of yourself and your colleagues, based on careful observation and experience. Then double down on what works in your own patch. The research you read might suggest avenues of exploration but should never be the primary basis of your technology decisions.

It's an interesting sentiment that at first may appear to oppose the commonly held view that more research is needed to validate and/or repudiate new educational technologies. But Rose's comments actually support the idea among some ed-tech leaders—including U.S. ed-tech chief Karen Cator—that research into educational technology needs to be completely re-imagined. Rose's view that administrators need to find what works in small pockets and then bring it to a bigger scale, rather than wait for empirical data, is in the end not all that far off from the call for innovation zones as outlined in the National Education Technology Plan issued by Cator's office of educational technology within the U.S. Department of Education, in 2010.

Regardless, considering a group or organization's connections is always a good idea when evaluating an endorsement of a new product or practice. School Administrator is published by the American Association of School Administrators.

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