Weighing the Value of Breadth and Depth in Measuring EdTech Utilization

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

- Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

Though written more than a century ago, the famed literary detective’s adage still holds true today — you simply can’t make well-informed decisions without gathering honest, trustworthy and research-driven data first. This is especially important in education, where the decisions of education stakeholders can have profound and lasting impacts on the academic and future successes of students.

Consider the role of educational technology — school and district-level officials can’t theorize about the effectiveness of a given app or digital tool without first understanding who is using it, how it is being used, how often it is accessed and its ultimate impact on student learning. The challenge is, for many organizations, edtech “data” often comes in the form of peer reviews, social media Q&As, biased product websites and other sources that don’t paint a full picture of a particular tool’s pros and cons.

In these instances, Doyle’s famous saying should be restated as “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has [sufficient] data.” But where can schools and districts look to find sufficient data on their digital learning inventories?

The Go-To Source for EdTech Data Insights

LearnPlatform is a comprehensive edtech management and rapid-cycle evaluation system that provides schools and districts with actionable, unbiased and intellectually honest insights into how edtech is used in their organization and across the country. These insights can help guide more informed decisions on purchasing, implementation and management of classroom technology, and can be broken down into two levels: breadth of information and depth of information.

Breadth of edtech utilization answers the broader questions of “who,” “what,” “when,” and “how,” while depth take these questions one (or more) steps further, helping to inform on edtech impact, cost effectiveness, specific outcomes for particular learner demographics, etc. All of this information can be reviewed and synthesized using the independent, research-backed methodologies embedded in LearnPlatform.

Examining Your Breadth of EdTech Utilization

Our CEO, Karl, is fond of saying: “If you want to know what you’re using that works, you first have to know what you’re using.”

While it seems simple enough, the truth is many school districts across the country don’t have a complete grasp on the digital tools they’re using. In fact, our research has found that while the average district uses more than 500 edtech products per month. And further research shows that just 9 percent of all paid student licenses are used to full fidelity. In other words, many school systems are likely paying for hundreds of digital tools that aren’t meeting the recommended dosage for student use. And if these students aren’t using the tools they’re meant to be accessing, the question becomes: what are they using?

As a Google for Education partner, LearnPlatform helps analyze breadth of edtech utilization with a unique administrator-level Google Chrome Extension that activates and informs you anytime a student or teacher accesses an edtech product through a Chromebook or Chrome browser.


The information (all kept fully secure) is then synthesized in a unique dashboard, providing real-time insights into the tools being used in your organization, how often they’re accessed and what’s being used most. These insights can be used to spot whether unapproved products are being accessed or whether free tools are being utilized more than premium options.

But while these data points serve as a good snapshot of edtech use in your school or district, it is important to remember what they do not provide — depth. To really explore the effectiveness of your digital learning inventory, and understand their impacts on academic and financial outcomes, you have to dive deeper.

Examining Your Depth of EdTech Utilization

Once you’ve identified the breadth of your edtech utilization, you can begin examining the depth of use — i.e. what tools are most impactful on student outcomes, what tools are providing the best return on your investment, etc.

LearnPlatform offers rapid-cycle evaluations (RCE) with IMPACT™ Analyses. After you’ve reviewed your Chrome dashboard and utilization findings, the IMPACT system can analyze millions of these data points in just a few minutes to give you deeper insights into any and all of your edtech products or apps, while accounting for factors like pricing, student outcomes, student demographics, teacher feedback and anything else you specify, based on your needs.

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With IMPACT, you can answer key questions about the depth of your edtech utilization:

  • Did a product do what it was intended to do for your unique set of teachers and students?

  • Is the effect of the product different for different student populations (grade levels, demographics, achievement levels)

  • How can you adjust your implementation, use or licensing of the product to drive higher outcomes?

  • Where are opportunities for cost savings?

This level of depth is nearly impossible to get with traditional third-party evaluations. And it’s the best way to go deeper and see how to make your educational technology work better for you, your faculty and your students.

What are Your EdTech Trends Telling You?

If you’d like to explore the trends surrounding your organization’s use of educational technology, here are a few simple steps you can take to get started:

  1. Install the free LearnPlatform Google Chrome Extension in your school or district to get an understanding of the breadth of your edtech utilization.

  2. Explore our EdTech Trends series with free research-backed reports on edtech use from hundreds of other learning organizations across the country.

  3. Stay in touch by connecting with a LearnPlatform district analyst or subscribing to our monthly newsletter to receive updates and our latest findings on the current and future state of edtech utilization.