US Dept of Education Releases Free Ed Tech Developer Guide


The US Department of Education has released a guide for developers of education technology meant to serve as a handbook to help them match their visions with schools’ needs. The Ed Tech Developer’s Guide: A Primer for Developers, Startups, and Entrepreneurs is available for free download.

The e-book is divided into ten sections, each of which addresses a different “persistent problem in education,” with the goal of showing developers what is really necessary in educational technology and how they can make the most significant impact.

These ten opportunities for educational development are: Improving Mastery of Academic Skills, Developing Skills to Promote Lifelong Learning, Increasing Family Engagement, Planning for Future Education Opportunities, Designing Effective Assessments, Improving Educator Professional Development, Improving Educator Productivity, Making Learning Accessible to All Students, Closing Opportunity Gaps, and Closing Achievement Gaps.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced its release in a speech at the ASU+GSV Summit, which focuses on educational innovation. He called for the inclusion of teachers earlier in the development process to ensure that technology effectively meets learning needs. Nichele Dobo of Games and Learning quoted his remarks on bringing education to historically marginalized groups:

Technology makes it possible for us to create a different dynamic between a teacher and a classroom full of students. It cna open up limitless new ways to engage kids, support teachers, and bring parents into the learning process. We need tools designed to help students discover who they are and what they care about, and tools that create portals to a larger world that, in the past, would have remained out of reach for far too many students.

If the technology revolution only happens for families that already have money and education, then it’s not really a revolution.

Richard Culatta, director of educational technology at the Department of Education, wrote about the e-book on the Department of Education blog. He notes that developers might rely too much on their memories of being a student and forget to take into account the way that the educational system and students have changed. They may digitize worksheets but forget to really innovate. Often, they fail to ask the question “what does technology make possible that could not be done before?

Joshua Bolkan of Campus Technology quoted Culatta’s statement:

The demand for high-quality educational apps is increasing as communities become more connected, devices become more affordable, and teachers and parents are looking for new ways to use technology to engage students. Yet, many existing solutions don’t address the most urgent needs in education. Opportunities abound for software designers and developers to create impactful tools for teachers, school leaders, students and their families.

The ASU+GSV Summit, where the e-book debuted, included about 150 educators. Their attendance and travel costs were supported by Digital Promise, a nonprofit that helps schools share educational technology.