Edu Tech Developer’s Guide

Edu Tech Developer's Guide Opportunities abound for software designers and developers to create impactful tools for teachers, school leaders, students, and their families. This guide for developers, startups and entrepreneurs addresses key questions about the education ecosystem and highlights critical needs and opportunities to develop digital tools and apps for learning. Crowd-sourced from knowledgeable educators, developers, and researchers who were willing to share what they have learned, this guide is designed to help entrepreneurs apply technology in smart ways to solve persistent problems in education.  

Ten opportunities for technology to transform teaching & learning

  1. Improving mastery of academic skills
  2. Developing skills to promote lifelong learning
  3. Increasing family engagement
  4. Planning for future education opportunities
  5. Designing effective assessments
  6. Improving educator professional development
  7. Improving educator productivity
  8. Making learning accessible to all students
  9. Closing opportunity gaps
  10. Closing achievement gaps
Preparing Future Ready teachers & students

Preparing Future Ready teachers & students

Ed Tech Developer’s Guide April, 2015 Summary by Tatyana Belyavskaya


1. Primer’s Goals:

 To help developers with design & logistics

 To provide the detailed info about privacy & accessibility sources

 To recommend general directions for developers & provide some advice

 To describe what features are most important for teachers/parents

2. Advice & directions for developers:

 Most important goals for applications: Providing support for teaching academic concepts such as math, science, language arts, social studies, and world languages.

 The special apps for students with special needs are in high demand.

 Applications that “create and share assessments, automate grading, and …provide feedback to students”, and also assessments with immediate feedback are recommended.

 Create apps to teach academic skills in more meaningful ways than a traditional textbook. Give learners an opportunity to practice in realistic settings.

 To be used in schools, an application should be “accessible to students with disabilities” & students with special needs.

 App developers should also consider offering users the ability to export information in case they need to use it in another tool or app.

3. Ensuring Privacy & Protecting Student Data

a) Main documents regulating Privacy & Protecting Student Data

- FEPRA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) Gives parents the right to access and seek to amend their children’s education records as well as protects personally identifiable information in education records.

- COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) governs the online collection of personal information from children under age 13.

- CIPA (the Children’s Internet Protection Act) imposes several requirements on schools or libraries that receive E-rate discounts for Internet access.

- PPRA (the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment requires that public elementary and secondary schools obtain parental consent before minor students participate in certain types of Department-funded surveys, analyses, or evaluations.

b) Recommendation: Post the privacy rules/privacy practices on the company website.

c) If a developer has in mind an app made for a specific state, he/she should check also the state’s privacy rules, because some states “have enacted more restrictive student privacy rules” than federal rules.

4. Funding

Integrating educational games into learning

Integrating educational games into learning

The primer provides links to the largest list of incubators in North America:

co.lab: A place designed to support the development of high-quality educational technologies that improve academic and social outcomes for PK-12 students using the power of games. co.lab works with cohorts of promising startup companies to accelerate their products.  New Schools & Zynga Venture Team Up.

Startl: Designed to pave the way for cool new digital media learning products to move from idea to funding and into learners’ hands a public-private partnership to break new ground in the education market and help to launch the next generation of digital tools for learning.

  The Brandery: A seed-stage startup accelerator that leverages the expertise of the Cincinnati region, namely branding, marketing, and design.

Foundation Center: Updated weekly to keep you current, Foundation Directory Online provides the most comprehensive and accurate information on U.S. grantmakers and their funding activities. Is a technical platform and list of challenge and prize competitions, all of which are run by more than 75 agencies across federal government. is a technical platform and list of challenge and prize competitions, all of which are run by more than 75 agencies across federal government.

Investing in Innovation: Program with the grants overview, Our mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

Foundation Center: Updated weekly to keep you current, Foundation Directory Online provides the most comprehensive and accurate information on U.S. grantmakers and their funding activities.

5. Important Trends in the Educational Landscape

a) Major educational trends: Blended Learning, Personalized Learning, Project Based Learning, Mastery Based Learning

b) Testing/Assessments: “To receive federal funds, each state must adopt statewide assessments in mathematics, English language arts, and science that are aligned with their content standards.” The primer provides links to develop assessments in mathematics and English language arts.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium: Develops next-generation assessments that accurately measure student progress toward college and career readiness. The Smarter Balanced assessment system is aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

NAEP: National Assessment of Educational Progress assesses math, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history. This test is administered periodically.

TIMSS: Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. It assesses 4th & 8th-grade students’ math & science achievement.

Keeping Up with Ed Tech

 • EdSurge: The EdSurge weekly online newsletter is widely read in the ed tech community. EdSurge also produces ES-Instruct for educators and the EdTech Index, a database that categorizes and reviews hundreds of ed tech startups, products, and services.

 • Education Gadfly: Weekly ed tech updates produced by the Thomas Fordham Institute.

 • EdTech Times: a Boston-based group whose site features daily news updates and features.

 • Edutopia: focuses on practices and programs that help students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and beliefs to achieve their full potential.

  • EdWeek Digital Directions: Part of EdWeek, Digital Directions covers news, trends, and best practices for the K–12 tech audience.

 • EdTech Handbook: A series of contributed articles (the handbook is designed to demystify the process of launching an education-focused startup, specifically for K12).

 • eSchool News: Provides the latest educational technology news K-12 and higher education.

 • Getting Smart: Created by Tom Vander Ark, the Getting Smart site covers formal and informal topics that cover K-12, higher education and lifelong learning. The organization has a particular focus on innovation and personalized learning.

  • Graphite: Created by Common Sense Media, Graphite provides reviews of ed tech products where educators can filter results by type (app or website), subject, grade level, and price. Product information provided includes setup time, skills addressed, intended student audience, and tech notes. Designed for educators, the products are reviewed by volunteer teachers who use a review system that examines pros, cons, engagement, pedagogy, support, and the bottom line.

 • KQED MindShift: If you’re looking for a deeper dive into topics related to learning, check out MindShift. Launched in 2010 by KQED and NPR, MindShift explores the future of learning in all its dimensions, including cultural and technology trends, innovations in education, groundbreaking research, and education policy.”

 • New Learning Times: is produced at the Ed Lab at the Teachers College at Columbia University and provides daily coverage of learning opportunities to transform education.

 • Startup Digest EDU: shares the latest news and information about startups and innovations in education.

 • THE Journal is dedicated to informing and educating K-12 senior-level district and school administrators, technologists and tech-savvy educators on educational technology issues.

"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."
Richard Culatta - Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education  
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