CMU Researchers Advance Ed-Tech Pilots in Pittsburgh Schools

August 12, 2016
Students working on computer

Technology use continues to rise in schools as an important means for teachers to create a more personalized learning experience for students. Schools are increasingly dedicating significant budgets to apply educational technology to classrooms, as much as 6.6 billion in the U.S. alone. However, as more learning tools emerge in the market, selecting the right tool for each school or classroom remains a difficult choice with expensive repercussions and the potential to jeopardize student learning, if poor decisions are made.

Marti Louw, Human-Computer Interaction Institute faculty member and director of the Learning Media Design Center partnered with postdoctoral fellow Soniya Gadgil and Digital Promise for a yearlong research project into the value of a more rigorous approach to piloting Ed-tech products in schools. Also contributing to the project are undergraduate researchers Sarah Moss-Horwitz and Yiran Buckley, both pursuing majors in human-computer interaction with the HCII.

Their project, Rapid Cycle Pilots: Improving Ed-Tech Products through Feedback, studied five different product pilots with three different Pittsburgh-based school districts (South Fayette, Avonworth, Elizabeth Forward) and five companies (Microsoft, Amplify, Digital Dream Labs, eSpark and Inventor Cloud.) In each case, the inclusion of Carnegie Mellon as an external research partner enabled a feedback loop cycle that made use of data and design insights to generate more evidence-based discussions and decision making about product features and school adoption. Building trust in the pilot process, both with product developers and the school districts, Louw notes, is essential for a successful pilot.

Read the highlights and key insights from this project in Digital Promise's article, "Pittsburgh Schools and Developers Share Tips for Improved Ed-Tech Pilots." If you are interested in reading the complete case study report, it is available online.

Perspective students who are interested in educational technology and learning sciences can read more about our Master of Educational Technologies and Applied Learning Science program.

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