For effective edtech platforms, listen to users

Five years ago, Georgia began rolling out its learning object repository — basically a digital library of all of its educational content — but something was missing.

Angela Baker, the state Department of Education’s technology services manager, says the project wasn’t gathering feedback from its potential users.

“Our biggest mistake was five years ago, not listening to our users for what they wanted in a repository or even if they wanted a repository,” Baker says in a video interview. “We took that lesson from five years ago and applied it to our current application build.”

Baker’s team brought in the repository’s users, both current and potential and listened to their feedback and their desires.

“[We] had them guide us through the process of their needs rather than what we thought was the fun glittery, shiny object,” Baker says. “That’s been a valuable lesson for us.”

Learning from that situation, Baker encourages other people in her role or a similar role in a different state to engage heavily.

“I definitely encourage anyone that’s looking at either building or bringing in a new product statewide to work with their local districts and schools and educators,” Baker says.

The engagement approach, as opposed to one that is built without feedback, maximizes return on investment of time and resources for the department, she says.

“After all, educators are the ones that are using it, so if we put it together and it’s not something they’re going to find value in, then we wasted our time and energy,” Baker says. “That’s really been our biggest, at some points downfall and at other points, very valuable for us.”

Baker on major edtech initiatives in the last year:

Baker on her top priorities:

Baker on emerging edtech trends:

These videos were filmed and produced by EdScoop at the 2018 State Educational Technology Directors Association Leadership Summit in Arlington, Virginia.