Technology purchasing decisions are very difficult. A new initiative aims to help


District and school leaders face some of the most difficult and expensive technology purchasing decisions of their careers. But they find it difficult to know where to go for objective information on ed-tech products.

The International Society for Technology in Education tries to fill the void.

“It is very difficult to get information about the different products,” said Richard Culatta, CEO of ISTE. “Sure, companies will gladly give you a white paper that says how awesome everything is, but it’s hard to get real, accurate information.”

Individual groups, he said, have attempted to create some sort of consumer report for electronic technology products, but it has been tricky and time consuming to achieve.

ISTE is therefore working with partner organizations to create a national database of ed-tech products. It will be up to the sellers to add their products to the list. And each product will be assigned a Universal Learning Technology ID or UTID.

While other ed-tech repositories may have their own labels for various products, ISTE believes this will be used consistently across the industry, said Mindy Frisbee, senior director of learning partnerships at ISTE.

“Having access to consistent information on the ground is really essential,” Frisbee said. “You might think it’s really easy” when a potential electronics technology buyer reviews a specific product through a library or resource, then heads to another location to find out more.

But, she said, the buyer might see that the product has a different name when it’s listed elsewhere, or it’s described a little differently. This means that the leaders in electronic technology “may not be sure whether [they’re] compare apples to apples. The universal identification number will make it easy to determine which product is which, she said.

The ultimate goal? To create a “resource center for finding all kinds of product information,” Frisbee said.

Next month, ISTE will deploy a searchable database with a filtering tool. Initially, users will be able to see information such as the name of the product, a description, the grade (s) the product is intended for, the topic it covers, and the pricing structure.

And soon, the database will be expanded to include other factors such as product compliance with interoperability standards and privacy policies. Later, the hub can include information such as research studies on a particular product or approach, and a way for educators to share their own experiences with the product.

Other organizations, such as Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that works on issues related to youth and technology, and Digital Promise, which strives to improve innovation in kindergarten through kindergarten. Grade 12 team up with ISTE and could add some of their own information to the database. .

The timing of this new database is really important, Culatta said, in part because districts have unprecedented amounts of federal COVID relief assistance to spend to help students and schools recover from the disease. pandemic. Educators want to make sure they are making good choices.

“We have billions and billions of dollars going to school districts right now, and they’re telling us we need help making these decisions,” Culatta said. “For a digital education ecosystem, we’ve been in an incredibly analog world in terms of how we make decisions about the products we buy. And our goal is to change that.

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