Edtech you can trust

​As something of a scientist I’ve become accustomed to getting information from peer reviewed journal when I want to have confidence in the quality of the studies that generate the results, so I was keen to read an article that would reveal reliable educational technology product evaluation resources. In her article for Edutopia, “What Edtech can you trust?”, Julia Willis recommends three groups for their evaluation of educational technology products which she says incorporate medical model guidelines for evaluating the research claims about consistency, claim control and expertise: Edutopia from the George Lucas Educational Foundation, Graphite  from Common Sense Education, and Consumer Reports.
Common Sense Education has pages of “Reviews & Ratings” where hundreds of products are sorted by platforms, subjects, grades, prices, skills and purpose. Each product is given two ratings; one following Common Sense criteria and another by teachers. Links to the products are provided as is whether the product is free or requires payment. The rubric for the review methodology for generating the rating is also provided. This is an excellent resource for teachers, parents, and learners looking for digital learning tools. I’m not sure what Graphite has to do with Common Sense Education because when I followed the link I just got the Common Sense Education main webpage.
I searched Consumer Reports for ZOOM, Blackboard, Weebly, Camtasia, Aurasma, and got nothing. I don’t know if Julia Willis was simply commended their manner of evaluating products or if she found educational technology product reviews but I didn’t find anything useful here.
Edutopia is the venue for reporting evaluations of educational research studies and research into the effective educational tools and practices conducted by the George Lucas Education Foundation. Edutopia has reported on a large and diverse collection of educational tools and practices but the site is not as user friendly as the Common Sense Education site: however the searchable database is excellent. While Edutopia may carry out extensive research on educational products many of the product review come up as blogs from mostly teachers, and while teachers may be very good judges of what tools work in their classrooms and can give you some ideas on how to effectively use a tool, their blogs are simply opinion pieces.
Of the two other resources recommended for employing stringent analysis of educational technology product claims, the British Education Index has been bought by EBSCO Information Services. The “Databases for Schools” pages contain a large collection of literary sources but no education technology products.
The last resource is the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) of the U.S. Department of Education. It includes reviews and results from high-quality research on different educational products in order to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions about which tools to choose. Pages on the site are divided into 12 topics including literacy, early childhood, mathematics, science, dropout prevention and others. Each product is described and categorized by outcomes domain, grades examined, the number of studies conducted that meet the WWC standards and the number of students involved in the studies, and each is assigned an effectiveness rating and an improvement index. This is a very impressive collection of studies into the effectiveness of education tools as well as programs, practices and policies.
I found only three of the five resources presented in the article by Julia Willis to be useful but they are tremendously so. I recommend Common Sense Education, Edutopia, and What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) to anyone who wants reliable information on effective educational technology tools.