Skip to main content

Questions To Ask When Building Up Your Edtech Ecosystem

Building out a trusted, interoperable, and future-ready edtech ecosystem for school districts requires planning and careful consideration when procuring various edtech tools. With tightening budgets, limited staff, and technology constantly evolving, sometimes planning can feel impossible.

The truth is that there is a lot to consider when finding the best tools, and few people have expertise in every aspect, including technical interoperability, data privacy, cybersecurity, AI considerations, and accessibility for all learners. Still, these are all important topics in the procurement process to avoid future headaches.

The solution is to stop trying to do all of this alone. 1EdTech’s community of leaders in K-12, higher ed, and edtech suppliers came together to develop three rubrics to help start conversations between suppliers and educational institutions.

In a recent webinar with 1EdTech, members from the state departments of education in Georgia and North Carolina and edtech supplier Instructure discussed the need for these rubrics and how they can help all edtech stakeholders create a more effective edtech ecosystem.


The TrustEd Apps Accessibility Rubric will help suppliers highlight their efforts to prioritize accessibility in their tools and allow institutions to find the right edtech partners to help all learners be successful.

“We ask for accessibility conformance reports like the VPAT, but that doesn’t give us the detail to truly understand how a solution is either accessible or not accessible, and oftentimes we don’t have the subject matter experts at hand to help understand. So, with this rubric, it enables districts to have a better understanding of the commitment to and the progress towards accessibility from the vendors’ products,” said Donna Murray, digital accessibility specialist for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. “I really see this rubric as a way to continue building capacity within my organization and districts in our state, because you don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s difficult to determine what your entry points should be. I love that this rubric elevates some of the important topics to address, and we can talk about our next steps, and how we can grow.”

The rubric is broken up into four sections. One asks for conformance documentation. The second allows the supplier to share additional insights into how they approach sharing accessibility information throughout the procurement process. The third section allows the supplier to describe how they approach testing accessibility and how they weave it into their product roadmap, and the last section is where a supplier can describe how they provide or develop accommodations in the event the product doesn’t meet an institution's accessibility needs.

“The entire rubric was set up to show the program communication because it’s impossible to have perfect accessibility, so the rubric results are actually on a maturity scale to show either emerging, advanced, or optimized,” said Daisy Bennett, associate general counsel and data protection officer for Instructure. “One of the primary goals of the accessibility rubric was to take that broader look at how suppliers approach accessibility and how they implement it programmatically.”

Security Practices

The TrustEd Apps Security Practices Rubric is designed to gather base-level security policies, procedures, and processes to help educational institutions determine whether a tool is likely to meet their vetting process's requirements. Suppliers will also gain a better understanding of what is needed and expected by institutions regarding security policies and practices.

“Over the years, many of our institutions expressed that they didn’t really have a lot of guidance,” said Nathan Miller, chief information security officer for the Georgia Department of Education. “Generally, their general counsel is not a data privacy expert, so they really didn’t know where to look for best practices or what expectations they needed to set for vendors. So, this rubric truly fills that gap.”

The rubric is, again, a starting point in the vetting process, focused on four key areas: documentation, how the data is used and stored, upload policies and privacy notices, and how data is used or shared with third parties.

“We really wanted the rubric to be understandable and comprehensible to individuals, and we wanted to ensure that there was a feedback mechanism built in, so institutions can ask questions of suppliers if they don’t understand something and need more information,” said Bennett. “It really helps institutions at the procurement state, and to understand the overarching security posture of the supplier.”

Generative AI Data Privacy

Finally, the TrustEd Apps Generative AI Data Rubric is the first phase of a comprehensive rubric to vet and self-assess the way artificial intelligence is managing and using data in edtech tools. The Generative AI Data Privacy rubric consists of five questions to help educators understand how AI is being used in a tool, whether there are opt-in or opt-out clauses for AI use, and whether third parties are involved.

All three speakers emphasized the importance of implementing generative AI with patience and intention.

“The law never keeps up with technology,” said Bennett. “Companies want to bring in new technologies because we want to offer the best things to our clients and leverage amazing technology, but we need to take a really thoughtful and slow approach to implementing AI and decreasing or mitigating the risk for institutions because we’re dealing with students' data.”

“I think there’s a tendency to get wrapped up in the novelty of a new tool and bypass that governance process,” said Miller. “Training and awareness is key. AI notetakers are a great example. When we meet with external stakeholders using AI notetakers, we need to be sure we aren’t discussing student data, and alternatively, let others on a call know if you’re recording or using a notetaker so they can make informed decisions about what they talk about.”

“There are so many great benefits, but we do have to temper that with the reality that we ensure our student data is safe,” said Murray. “Part of this is just really building capacity around knowledge and understanding of student data privacy, all the way down to the classroom level.”

How the Rubrics Work

The rubrics themselves are open and available for anyone to view and review. Suppliers can fill out the rubrics, and the results are available to 1EdTech members through 1EdTech’s TrustEd Apps Product Directory and TrustEd Apps Management Suite (TAMS).

The new rubrics are self-assessments, which are different from the other certifications and the data privacy certification and seal provided by 1EdTech. The self-assessment model allows suppliers to update their responses as their policies and procedures evolve and helps to facilitate those important procurement discussions. Institutions are encouraged to treat the responses just as they would responses to an RFP, but now they have the responses in one easy-to-access location.

“If we have new practices, we can provide the most up-to-date information,” said Bennett. “For institutions, just as you would with an RFP, you can use the answers to these questions to determine whether or not you want to use an application or tool.”

“I foresee us asking for both a VPAT and self-assessment because it’s a great entry point for discussions,” said Murray. “They may not score at the optimal level across the board, and that may be okay. It allows us to talk about what our needs are, what we’re procuring, and the project we’re working on, and then we see where the gaps are. That can inform even what goes into that contract language to say, ‘Here’s our roadmap. Here’s how we’re going to partner together.”

“Many of our districts, especially our smaller shops, have a technology director or coordinator who wears many hats, and they don’t have a high level of expertise in either cybersecurity or data privacy,” said Miller. “This will give them an opportunity to begin vetting and comparing suppliers in a robust way that’s not going to require them to chisel out valuable time from their day.”

How to Find Out More

You can view the entire discussion and webinar here. You can also dive into the individual rubrics more thoroughly at 1EdTech’s Learning Impact Conference, June 3-6 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

About the Author

Tim Clark, Ed.D.

As the Vice President of K-12 Programs at 1EdTech, Dr. Tim Clark assists schools and districts in adopting 1EdTech standards and practices to enable interoperable and secure digital learning ecosystems. He also provides strategic leadership for K-12 in 1EdTech in collaboration with K-12 institutional and state department of education members of the consortium. Tim holds a Doctor of Education in Leadership for Learning with a concentration in Instructional Technology, and his research and dissertation focused on designing online learning communities for elementary students. Throughout his career, he has been a vocal advocate for implementing instructional technology, digital content, and curriculum to increase achievement and motivation, encourage collaboration, facilitate critical thinking, and construct engaging learning environments. 


Published on 2024-05-22

PUBLISHED ON 2024-05-22

Photo of User
Tim Clark
Vice President, K-12 Programs
Help us improve the accessibility of this site by emailing recommendations to