A $1.6 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will boost a nascent nonprofit that’s seeking to help teachers make better-informed decisions about education technology.
The University of Virginia teamed up with Strada Education Network last year to launch the Jefferson Education Exchange, which evolved from an incubator based at the Curry School of Education and Human Development.
The Exchange’s goal is to research how schools use education technology and develop a framework to assist educators and school and district leaders. The framework will include information about different products to guide the selection, purchase and use of technology.
JEX President Bart Epstein said, currently, school and district leaders are “buying technology on a hope and a prayer.”
School districts nationwide spend more than $13 billion every year on thousands of education technology tools, Epstein said. He estimates that 85 percent of the money is wasted on products that are not used correctly.
The Exchange exists to figure out why the technology isn’t being used properly, Epstein said.
“It will eventually benefit every classroom in the country,” he said of JEX’s work. “ … This funding is an important part of making that happen.”
CZI announced the grant Monday. The money will support the organization’s core operations and research, Epstein said. Currently, the Exchange is conducting field research and talking with educators.
The Initiative has given more than $110 million in education-related grants since January 2018, according to a Chalkbeat analysis of the foundation’s data. In December 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg founded CZI along with his wife, Priscilla Chan.
Sandra Liu Huang, head of education at CZI, said in a news release that the voices of educators are missing from decisions on which technology to buy and how to implement it.
“We’re pleased to invest in an evidence-based approach to help teachers, schools, and districts better understand how technology can best support students in the context of their specific needs and learning environment,” she said.
Curry School Dean Robert Pianta serves as the chairman of JEX’s board. He said UVa was formative in developing the organization.
He said the grant was “phenomenally important.”
“There’s a big gap between actual users, developers and procurement officers,” Pianta said. “ … [The exchange] is trying to bridge that gap.”
Epstein credited CZI, Strada and UVa with helping make the Exchange’s work possible.
“... This is work that everybody wants done and that somebody needs to step up and pay for,” he said.