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The Jefferson Education Accelerator wants to know if edtech is really working

Meet NERD, the “National Education Researcher Database.”

University of Virginia. (Photo by Flickr user Bob Mical, used under a Creative Commons license)
Tablets. Apps. Augmented reality. Virtual reality. All these technologies (and more) are making their way into the education space. But does edtech really deliver on its promise? And how can schools and teachers distinguish between different products (of different qualities) in a crowded market?

Research.

At least, that’s what the University of Virginia-affiliated Jefferson Education Accelerator (JEA) believes. The accelerator program, which launched in 2015 with offices in D.C. and Charlottesville, announced a new initiative to “bridge the gap between innovation and efficacy” this week. The initiative, called the National Education Researcher Database (with the sweet acronym of NERD), is a joint project between JEA and UVA’s Curry School of Education. It’s essentially a big online catalog of education researchers across the country, free and easily navigable, that edtech entrepreneurs, investors and even school leaders can use to solicit expertise on the efficacy of a given edtech product.

“This endeavor is another important step in the growing effort to elevate merit over marketing,” Bart Epstein, founding CEO of JEA said in a statement. “By helping education companies find researchers early and engage them as partners, advisors, and evaluators, we expect that companies will build better products that are based more on learning science.”

The creation of NERD is being supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and a first version of the database is expected to be available starting this summer.

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