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Evaluating Technology Tools

An increasing number of educational technology tools are focused specifically on professional learning and increasing teacher effectiveness. Educators face many questions when it comes to evaluating these opportunities. The newly released Standards for Professional Learning offer guidance in determining which tools have the greatest potential to achieve the outcomes they seek.

The standards define the characteristics of professional learning that improves educator practice and student learning outcomes. Educators, as well as technology partners, vendors, and providers, should consider the following questions as a guide when designing and/or selecting the right tools for the right outcomes.

Outcomes: How will the technology help students and teachers achieve the outcomes that have been defined as necessary for their success?

Implementation: What support is provided during the most difficult periods of the change process to ensure the technology becomes truly integrated into the fabric of the school or classroom? What are expectations for the developers as well as the users? How is successful implementation defined?

Design: How does the technology address the unique needs of the educator, including levels of competence, teaching assignments, school settings, and other concerns? How are users made aware of the expectations and outcomes the technology is supposed to assist them in achieving? What evidence is there that the technology can deliver on intended learning outcomes?

Data: How has data helped determine educator learning needs, and how will the technology specifically address those needs? How will the technology be used to monitor the impact of the new learning? How can the technology support documentation of its impact?

Resources: How must resources be allocated to ensure educators have access to the time and dollars necessary for successful implementation of new technology that produce better results for both educators and students?

Leadership: What are expectations for leaders in supporting the integration and use of a new technology? In what other ways will the new technology support leaders? What is the plan for preparing leaders to us the new technology?

Learning Communities: How does the technology advance learning in communities, build mutual accountability, and support the spread of best practices from classroom to classroom and school to school?

Over the next several days I will have the opportunity to interact with many technology developers now focused on the "education space." I intend to raise these questions and challenge them to give these questions thoughtful attention. I assume that if they can successfully answer these questions they will find educators eager to partner and confident in the results they will acquire together. Hopefully many will discover the "game changers" we need to accelerate the process of improvement in schools everywhere. Stay tuned for what I learn.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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