Virginia Researchers Map the “EdTech Genome"


The EdTech Genome identifies 10 variables that affect the effectiveness of technology in the classroom.

An ambitious project launched by the University of Virginia's School of Education and Human Development, in partnership with the EdTech Evidence Exchange, released findings from a multi-year initiative designed to uncover the factors likely to have the greatest impact on the effectiveness of technology in the classroom. Even before the pandemic, the U.S. was spending between $26 and $41 billion per year on education technology—but schools and districts make these high-stakes purchasing decisions with almost no information about which tools work where or why. As a result, approximately half of all education technology is either used ineffectively, materially underused, or unused entirely.

To address this challenge, the EdTech Genome Project brought together researchers, educators, industry representatives, and policymakers to define and measure the 10 variables identified as most likely to have the greatest impact on edtech selection and implementation. Now, project leaders have already begun working with educators and policymakers around the country to put this new tool – known as the EdTech Context Framework – into action, collaborating with state leaders and nonprofits to collect and document data from schools and districts nationwide on where edtech is being used, how edtech is being used, and what is working where.

“Understanding how edtech products are used in classrooms and the degree to which they impact student learning is critical information for instructional planning and resource allocation,” said Cindy Rockholt, NBCT, the Assistant Superintendent of Educator Growth and Development in Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. “This collaborative effort is providing us with information that we’ve never had before and will enable us and districts across Washington to make decisions that will better serve students and educators alike.”

The new framework forms the backbone of the EdTech Evidence Exchange Platform, a tool that will enable hundreds of thousands of educators to document the unique characteristics of their local schools and districts. With this information, educators will have new access to rich insights about the technologies that have succeeded or failed in contexts like their own. 

“Until now, word of mouth and anecdotal evidence have been our best resource to determine what technology to use in the classroom,” said Dr. Melissa Collins, NBCT, a second-grade teacher in Nashville, TN. “The opportunity to learn from my peers, and to share my own experiences, will transform the way I choose and use new tools and products.”

By leveraging the EdTech Context Framework, the Exchange Platform will empower educators to learn from the experiences of others working in similar contexts for the first time at scale—helping schools to effectively select and implement edtech in ways that can save billions of dollars and lead to dramatic improvements in student learning outcomes.

“The need to understand what technology tools work and in what contexts is more urgent than ever,” said Dr. Heather Crawford-Ferre, Education Program Professional at the Nevada Department of Education. “Nevada is excited to partner with the EdTech Evidence Exchange to learn from and support our teachers, administrators and schools in selecting the best educational technology for their students. Together, we’re tapping the collective experience and insight of educators in ways that will not only help us make smarter investments in technology—but also improve the learning experience for students across Nevada.”

The EdTech Genome Project is an initiative of the EdTech Evidence Exchange, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development that taps teacher insights to help schools make better-informed decisions about education technology. With support from philanthropic and social impact organizations including Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Strada Education Network, the Exchange is working toward providing stipends to hundreds of thousands of educators who will document their unique experiences with education technology, share insights with others in similar contexts, and contribute to the EdTech Evidence Exchange Platform — enabling educators nationwide to learn from one another at scale.

“We know for a fact that school environments vary from each other—in ways that matter deeply when it comes to selecting and implementing the tens of billions of dollars worth of technology we buy for our schools,” said Bart Epstein, CEO of the EdTech Evidence Exchange. “It is long past time for millions of educators across the country to be able to learn from each other’s experiences using thousands of technologies.”

To read the EdTech Genome Project Report, click here.