This post was written by 2015 Lea(R)n Summer Fellow, Yasmeen Robbins, who works as an instructional coach for Cumberland County schools. She is one of thousands of savvy educators using LearnTrials to inform their selection process for digital resources.
We all know teachers are the most important factor in student learning, but modern educators rely on technology to manage classrooms and improve instruction. To ensure sustainable achievement, schools and their administrators must organize and review available data. At my school, the main database influences everything we do, and using LearnTrials, our administrative team saves time and money when selecting digital resources.
Last August, I sat down with my team and analyzed data from the previous academic year. As we began to identify patterns and areas of concern, we realized our students had failed to increase overall reading proficiency. As an instructional leader, I worked with my principal to determine possible causes. We knew there must be reliable products for measuring our students’ reading levels before and after each school year. However, we wanted to keep track of the tools used by our teachers, so we could monitor their impact on student engagement and achievement.
We implemented several literacy intervention tools to monitor students from Kindergarten to 3rd grade. However, that extra support was not provided to the 4th and 5th grade students. Therefore, our administrative team decided to focus on finding a tool for those grade levels.
Every classroom is different, so I talked with teachers to determine which tools were effective in specific situations. Unanimously, they requested a convenient resource that could maintain curriculum-alignment and monitor student progress. Some teachers suggested manually compiling records, but that idea was quickly shot down. Although it would provide accurate measurements of each student’s reading ability, many teachers thought that would be overwhelming. In the end, my teachers decided they wanted to support their classroom efforts with an online learning tool.
After conducting extensive research, I discovered two intriguing tools — let’s call them Product X and Product Y. Although unfamiliar with both, I decided to bring them to the administration team. As we began to discuss these options, several questions arose:
- What are teachers saying about these products?
- Are the products aligned with academic standards?
- Are they easy to implement for both students and teachers?
- Do they facilitate professional development for teachers?
- Are they rigorous?
A few days later, I received an email with the subject line: Which products will you keep in your school budget next year? There’s a better way to find out!
That message linked to the LearnTrials platform, which contains an extensive product library, including 3,500+ edtech tools. Every product receives an overall LearnGrade™ based on feedback from verified educators. These reports answered our basic questions about Product X and Product Y, but we also wanted to compare the two competitors.
On LearnTrials, both Product X and Product Y’s product pages included a community grade, in-depth data report, and practical feedback from real teachers. Both products seemed effective, however, I needed to decide which was best for my students. Fortunately, LearnTrials allowed us to easily compare them side-by-side. That way, we could see each product’s relative strengths and weaknesses.
Ultimately, my school chose Product X for its 4th and 5th grade classrooms. We wanted an effective tool that amplified the effect of face-to-face instruction, and according to educators using LearnTrials, Product X outperformed Product Y in that category.
This year, my school will harness data-driven insights from our teachers and conduct time-saving product trials in their classrooms. That way, we can develop our understanding of the best edtech for our students. We will gladly share our findings with other educators, and I’m sure we can learn from the Lea(R)n community as well!