Word-Of-Mouth = Evidence-Based: Merging word of mouth momentum with evidence-based EdTech implementation

While learning more about at ISTE Standard 4b, ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation Performance Indicator B, I started to wonder about the effect word-of-mouth has on EdTech implementation, strong professional development opportunities and program evaluations by teachers in our schools.  It led me to the question, how can we move from ‘word of mouth’ technology growth within education to a technology program that provides resources for growth in all schools?  Through my research, I have also realized that word-of-mouth can be a positive way to inspire teachers to use technology in the classroom. If done thoughtfully and in collaboration with all stakeholders, applying best practices of teaching, using strong PD tactics and deep collaboration will develop programs that support technology use in all areas – from district level involvement all the way through to the classroom.

“We continue to see that word of mouth rules in education,” Tia Lendo, who oversees marketing in North America for Google Education, told a meeting for developers Monday at ISTE 2015, the nation’s largest ed-tech conference.

Molnar, Michele – Google Research Shows ‘Word of Mouth’ Fuels Ed-Tech Decisions

In a study commissioned by Google, the percentages of ‘where educators got information about digital content’ were as follows:

  • Peers in other school districts—86 percent
  • Teachers who work in my school/district—81 percent
  • Peers in my school or district—71 percent

It becomes clear through this study that it is not about moving away from word-of-mouth influence but instead trying to merge the power of word-of-mouth with evidence-based EdTech implementation.

This leads to the importance of coming up with ways to merge word-of-mouth recommendations with technology that is research-based and includes what a school district has also purchased.  From my own experience, if it were not for being part of the Digital Education Leadership graduate program at Seattle Pacific University leading me to actively seeking out the resources available in my district, I would not be using what I am using today in my classroom and this extends to those in my school building who I have shared these resources with and what they are now using in their classroom. Most of what I use is through our district resources but not all and again, without being in a graduate program that has led me to look at what the district provides first and then supplementing, I would not have known how to go about figuring it all out. For tech novices, which I was 1 1/2 years ago, it is not easy to navigate and understand what is already provided.

Ed-tech company Glimpse K12 studied $2 billion in school spending and found that on average, 67 percent of educational software product licenses go unused. Glimpse K12 tracked 200,000 curriculum software licenses purchased by 275 schools during the 2017-2018 school year. The analysis found educational software was the biggest source of wasted spending in K-12 districts.

Michelle R. Davis of EdWeek Market Brief

There seems to be a lack of connection between what districts are purchasing for use and what teachers are gravitating towards.  Is this because there is a lack of connection and communication between district stakeholders, teachers in the field and upcoming teacher education programs? Strengthening the core knowledge of trusted teachers through targeted PD and including strong technology-based preservice teaching classes would mean that these teacher leaders would become the conduit – the word-of-mouth – that leads other teachers with less exposure towards the evidenced-based technology that is already available.  In addition, these teacher leaders could be a bridge between what teachers want and what the district supplies.

Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update – US Department of Education

Teacher-leaders and those with experience supporting learning with technology can work with administrators to determine how to share their learning with other teachers. They also can provide support to their peers by answering questions and modeling practical uses of technology to support learning.

– Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update – US Department of Education

 Connecting teachers with those in leadership who set the vision will result in districts purchasing evidence-based technology platforms and applications that will get used. Including PD that is led by these teachers with deeper training practices including follow-ups and coaching will result in more teachers available to help each other and keep EdTech growth growing.  This will encourage word-of-mouth to be aligned with evidenced-based practices which are best practices in general.  Starting this system within the preservice teacher programs is critical so that teachers coming into the field are already ahead of the game…or at the very least, starting the game with an understanding of best practices with technology use and how to successfully teach 21st century skills.

Berhane Teclehaimanot, University of
Toledo and Annette Lamb, Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis
wrote in their article, Technology-Rich Faculty Development for Teacher
Educators: The Evolution of a Program,
about the Teachers Info-Port to
Technology (PT3).  In this 3-year program,
The University of Toledo funded goals and objectives to:

  • Revise all College of Education undergraduate curriculum to include technology-rich teaching methods that meet, Ohio, NCATE and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards;
  • Develop resources and activities that ensure graduates use technology in their classroom;
  • Develop resources and activities to assure that the faculty members at the University of Toledo Colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences use technology in the classroom as both a model for students and a method of instruction.

Throughout the first two years of this program, they revised and improved upon the workshops that supported these goals and objectives. By the end of year 2, it was noted that the professional development workshops did help faculty to better incorporate the use of technology for future teachers through modeling and hands-on experiences.  Yet, continued support was desired from some faculty and this would echo the same sentiments we hear from teachers already in the K-12 educational field.  By the end of the 3rd year, the implications indicated below translates closely to what is needed in the K-12 education field as well:

results of this project suggest that well-designed faculty development
workshops can be effective in training teacher educators to design
technology-rich university curriculum. Based on 3 years of experience designing
and implementing professional development opportunities for faculty in the area
of technology integration, nine elements were identified as useful in creating
increasingly successful workshops.

3. Nine Elements for Successful Workshops

Element Suggestions
Depth More time with fewer technologies
Build on skills over time
At least 50% of workshop for practice and creation
Quality time on task with focused activities
Focus on practical products, templates, Web resources, and project-starters provided
Follow projects from start to finish
Modeling Use technology to teach integration
Demonstrate practical classroom applications
Examples Examples of technology use in content areas
Examples of technology integration
Web site based resources and templates
Short modules; simple products; frequent assessments
Timesavers Web page templates, logos, copyright-free visuals
PowerPoint presentation samples
Step-by-step review sheets (see http://tipt3.utoledo.edu/tools.html)
Differentiation Address individual differences in interests, speeds, ability levels
Web site based supplemental materials
One-on-one assistance: in workshop and out of workshop
Mentoring opportunities
Sharing options
Cohort group development

 Ultimately, the answer to my question, “How can we move from ‘word of mouth’ technology growth within education to a technology program that provides resources for growth in all schools?”, is that we shouldn’t move away from it but instead embrace it.  Let’s move towards merging the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations with the best practices of using evidence-based technology by having teachers in the field be the leaders by collaborating with leadership and district stakeholders so there is better representation of what teachers want and will use.  Through these teacher leaders, word will spread and anxieties lessened.  PD around what is already available through district resources will be relevant and welcomed, especially if leaders keep in mind the nine essential elements for successful workshops and PD opportunities.  If we can merge thoughtfully, then word-of-mouth is the best chance educators have of growth toward rich professional learning programs inside and outside of the classroom.


Davis, Michelle. (2019, May 19). K-12 Districts Wasting Millions by Not Using Purchased
Software, New Analysis Finds. Retrieved from https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/unused-educational-software-major-source-wasted-k-12-spending-new-analysis-finds/ 

Molnar, Michele. (2015 Jun. 29). Google Research Shows ‘Word of Mouth’
Fuels Ed-Tech Decisions.  Retrieved
from https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/google_research_shows_word_of_mouth_fuels_ed-tech_decisions/

Office of Educational Technology. (2017). U.S. Department of Education. Reimagining
the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan
Update. Retrieved from

Teclehaimanot, Berhane and Lamb, Annette.
(2016).  Technology-Rich
Faculty Development for Teacher Educators: The Evolution of a Program. Retrieved
from https://citejournal.org/volume-5/issue-3-05/current-practice/technology-rich-faculty-development-for-teacher-educators-the-evolution-of-a-program/ 

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