App Overkill: Going Beyond the Buzz Words #SXSWedu

App Overkill: Going Beyond the Buzz Words
SXSWedu 2017 Panel

  • Jena Draper, CEO, CachOn Inc
  • Carl Hooker, Director of Innovation & Digital Learning, Eanes ISD
  • P.H. Mullen Jr., Arc Capital Development
  • Adam Phyall, Director Technology & Media Services, Newton County School System, Covington GA

Oh oh! Mr. Hooker says this panel is going to include lots of interaction. This may impact my ability to take notes!

Freemium apps account for over 80% of apps and tools in schools today.

In the past finding tools was top down, but teachers are increasingly coming back from conferences or doing their own research and bringing tools back to school with them.

It's important to build the WHY for using apps/digital resources. Teachers need to know the value-add of the tool if you want it to be adopted.

There's a huge gap between what's being designed by edtech companies and what is happening in classrooms and what classrooms need. In classroom use cases and research is of paramount importance.

Good resources for finding quality digital resources and apps:

  • Students
  • EdCamp
  • PLN on Twitter
  • Educator Blogs

When selecting tools and resources:
  • Ask what the core functionality of the app is. And what you want it to do.
  • Look for multiple options.
  • Does the product work year after year? Can it continue to be used as students get older, change schools, etc?

Knowing if apps are being used and being used well:

  • It's important to track use AND impact on student achievement.
  • How do we define use? Is it just logging in? Or is it tie on task?
  • Is it being used only during the school day or is it being accessed after hours?
  • Campuses often purchase systems and districts need to use data to show them if the money is being used wisely or not.
  • If what you bought is/isn't being used, what other tools are being used?
  • CatchOn ( is a tool launching tonight at SXSWedu which will help districts obtain data on the use of their digital tools.

Once you have the data, what do you do with it?

  • Administrators: Ask informed questions of your staff. Why is the tool not being used? Is it too difficult? Is it not meeting the need? Then take answers to the next level. Expect vendors to help and improve. 
  • Teacher: Data should confirm what you've already observed with your students. Look for anomalies and use the data to improve your students' educational experience. 
  • Vendor: Find the breakpoints in utilization and see what is needed to fill the gaps. Data should be used to improve the apps and the classroom experience. 
  • IDEAL: Share the data between schools/districts and support one another in better use.
  • Be careful not to use the data to hit teachers on the head. Use it to open conversations and give teachers and students voice. What other tools are they using instead? Or what do they need to help them implement better.
  • Data is the middle piece in the efficacy discussion, not the end all be all.

Closing Thoughts:

Consolidation is happening rapidly in the EdTech market. Those of us in education can impact how this takes place.

USE DATA to make what you are doing better and fuel innovation.

Make sure you hold vendors accountable for their products functioning the way they should and the way you need them to.

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