The irony presented by the panel was the dissonance between the fact that there truly was "gold" available in the peer review disciplines of our Universities -- in that a large number of education quandaries have been addressed and research has determined some very viable paths to significant (if not transformative) outcomes -- yet no one in the education technology marketplace, to quote one of the panelists, "was beating a path to our doors." The if you build it, they will come mantra of so much other tech transfer was either broken or not operating. Why?
As Jim Shelton emphasized, as long as the market has no incentive to apply research rigor (i.e., there is no outcome standard), they will not beat a path to research. Why pay for something that presently isn't valued in the marketplace or which runs counter to other things mandated to be used?
In the face of this "frustration" -- children's outcomes remaining relatively flat for the past 20 years with only a third of our children proficient or advanced readers at the end of third grade and tools being sold without the rigor of documented achievement -- I think the research community (perhaps with the lead of IES, the research funding arm of the US Department of Education) is in the best position to knock down the wild west aspect of "proof by assertion" that the ED tech market is presently permitting.
As I've learned over years of working with communities to achieve outcomes across various systems, there are two necessary predicates to achieving these outcomes. First, clarity as to what the shared definition of outcome is and what measures are relevant. This piece is the role that IES (and an aligned Department of Education) can play. Like an ED FDA that would expect statistically proven outcomes through RCT (randomized control trials) before inflicting an idea or approach on our kids and schools and/or through recommended policy mandates.
Second, refusal to go along with shoddy statements of outcome in the industry. Even the "best and brightest" companies at The Summit had a dearth of real causal data. Here is where you and I, other researchers and the education community as a whole can clearly exert influence. Take one of the panelists', Richard Clark, Professor of Educational Psychology and Technology, Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Technology Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, statement about "discover learning" or any of the other philosophies in education (like "developmentally appropriate" or you fill in the blank __________). If research has debunked an approach, the fact that states are still mandating its use has to be shame on all of us. It's like the Medical Community not objecting to blood letting. We need to be much more forceful in calling out those who perpetuate the ideological myths. Because as long as "anything" gets outcomes, nothing does.
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