Spotting Trends and Delivering Data to Connect Edtech Tools With...

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Spotting Trends and Delivering Data to Connect Edtech Tools With Educator Needs

from MCH Strategic Data

By Wendy McMahon     Oct 16, 2017

Spotting Trends and Delivering Data to Connect Edtech Tools With Educator Needs

Data’s influence on modern education is immense; it drives policies, impacts funding—it even affects decisions about which tools and services edtech companies create for educators. And when it comes to helping edtech entrepreneurs understand those educators, Amy Rambo believes she has just the data that can help.

Rambo, president of MCH Strategic Data, is working to provide edtech companies with high quality, reliable data that helps them connect with education professionals and understand trends in schools and districts. The deeper an edtech firm’s understanding of the changing education landscape, the better it can support teachers and students with the learning tools they most need.

Below, Rambo shares her thoughts on education innovation, including her newest tool for edtech companies.

Wendy McMahon: Where does your work fit into the education landscape?

Amy Rambo: Our ultimate goal is providing better education to all students and helping educators find the right tools to do the best possible job. To support that goal, we gather contact and role information about education professionals as well survey data that helps us spot the trends in a curriculum, a district, and its educators’ needs.

So we provide data to professional development companies, curriculum suppliers, technology companies who are interested in supporting students and educators. Many of these folks were previously educators themselves, especially those working in edtech startups. A lot of them saw a strong desire for something they and other educators would have wanted in their classrooms, and then came up with an idea for that product or service.

How does the data you gather help support edtech companies and in turn educators?

What edtech companies are trying to do is build strong relationships with educators, and we have the data to help them do that. We have a feedback loop with district administrators, educators, faculty, so we listen and spot trends.

Over the last several years, we've published a K-12 principals’ assessment report, in which administrators give feedback on the biggest challenges they face in their schools. Many of these challenges are technology related.

Edtech entrepreneurs who want to help the state of K-12 education need to understand these challenges to ensure the products they're developing really provide the right solutions. Our data is really the connection between edtech companies and teachers, schools and students.

What’s fueling innovation in schools right now?

The popularity of online learning tools, web-based rich content such as video, interactive digital textbooks, e-books, online assessment and the increasing dependence on the internet for student and teacher learning is growing rapidly.

Our national principals’ survey also tells us there’s a significant uptick in principals reporting adequate school bandwidth this year compared to last. Just a few short years ago, many schools lacked the bandwidth to keep pace with educating our students. Now they can really use technology online and get a better understanding of where the students are, help the ones that need the additional help, and challenge the ones who are succeeding already.

These things are all fueling innovation in schools, as leaders and teachers focus on finding and using tools that can help them assess and address the needs of all students.

What kind of innovation are you pursuing at MCH?

We wanted to level the playing field by providing near-real-time updates of our data. It's become enormously important for companies to change their strategies and become data-driven. It's very disheartening to see that many edtech companies, specifically the startups, go out of business. There are a lot of really cool educational tools that people have created—that can solve problems in education—but these companies have difficulty scaling their solution, and getting their tools into schools exactly when schools need them.

DataLocity provides these companies with real-time updates of our education data, helping them connect with the right educators and understand the market. The benefit to educators is they get the right tools much quicker and can provide the students with the highest quality education possible. DataLocity is truly a plug and play application. Gone are the days of toggling back and forth between technology systems. Just access our application to get clean data.

Who or what has inspired you in your work?

I graduated with a Computer Information Systems degree, so the people that inspire me are technology-based. Two people that really inspired me—Steve Jobs and Bill Gates—are two very different people with something in common; they both dramatically changed the world of communication, interaction, and learning over the last 30-plus years.

They had a vision. They had failures. But they didn't give up and that led to their major successes. At the end of the day, they transformed our world incredibly—including education. I look at my children who are in fourth and fifth grade. They have their own laptops, email accounts at school, all this technology—that’s all because of these two big players in the market who have driven that change and success.

They've inspired me to continue—to not give up—to try new things, and be innovative.

How would you like to see education change in the future, and what role might you play?

The shift to higher learning standards is one of the factors that we believe will strengthen our national economy, as well as help us remain competitive in a global marketplace. We started identifying that roles and job functions at schools were changing to accommodate the stricter standards. We know which schools have adapted to these needs and which have been slower to do so.

But even though the standards have improved, they're still not where they need to be to really prepare our students for college and work life. Any edtech solutions or resources that can help bridge this gap will be very important.

Even though our customers are not the students and educators themselves, students are, in the end, our sole purpose. We want to help edtech companies provide their incredibly innovative tools to teachers and students because we believe technology can greatly impact teaching and learning.

So we will continue putting out surveys, spotting trends and insights and connecting with educators so we understand what's going on in classrooms, schools, and districts. Then we’ll work with edtech companies to provide them with the information that enables them to address some of education’s most pressing needs.

Amy’s Top Picks for Education Resources

Here is Amy’s must-follow list for Twitter, LinkedIn and education-focused blogs:

Homeroom: Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Education
EdWeek Blogs
Bill Gates
Richard Branson

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