“Teachers Know Best”: How Snapwiz is Meeting Digital Instruction Needs

May 1, 2014
by Jordan Taylor

Teachers Know BestOn April 22, 2014—at the ASU/GSV Education Innovation Summit—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released “Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools.”

The report is an incredibly insightful summary of survey data gathered from more than 3,100 teachers and 1,250 students, featuring 70 one-on-one interviews with teachers and students across 16 Districts.

This penetrating research project was inspired by an everyday desire to better understand what teachers want and need from digital instruction tools. Achieving this ambitious objective starts by connecting teachers with product developers: “One goal in sharing this information is to enable product developers to better understand the emerging needs of teachers and students so they can create instructional tools that are more useful.” 

Still, it’s more than that; the research aims to improve opportunities for students—helping them find value in digital learning solutions that are explicitly designed to prepare them for college:

The foundation’s K–12 strategy seeks to ensure that students graduate from high school ready to succeed in a college program that will prepare them to support themselves, engage in their communities, and achieve their dreams.

After briefly covering the provocative quantitative and qualitative data from this comprehensive study, we’ll look closely at six teacher-identified wants and needs concerning digital instruction tools. Then we’ll discuss how Snapwiz’s platform and tools address these needs with irreducible instructional benefits.

 Quick Survey Stats

  • The research captured 964 student-facing digital products. Approximately 40% of these products focus purely on a single academic subject.
  • Teachers named only 53% of the 964 products.
  • Of the products that teachers were familiar with, only 54% were perceived to be effective.
  • 4% of the teachers surveyed said they’d used their own money to purchase learning products.
  • When teachers turn to digital tools, 60% of the time they’re looking to enhance student-driven instructional benefits.
  • Less than 2% of the teachers surveyed responded that they felt digital learning solutions had no or little value.
  • 58% of the students surveyed said they believe that technology (inside and outside the classroom) benefits their learning.
  • A cited Scholastic Primary Sources survey of 20,000 teachers, released in February 2014, revealed that 83% of teachers believe the incorporation of technology into modern classrooms is beneficial.


K-12 Solutions


A Growing Interest in Digital Instruction Tools

The study explored four interrelated questions:

  • What do teachers want and need from digital instructional tools?
  • How can product developers use this information to more effectively serve students, teachers, and schools?
  • What do we know about how teachers and districts select and purchase digital instructional tools?
  • What do we know about the overall market for digital instructional tools?

Interest in digital instruction tools is growing rapidly in education. Nearly everyone who’s involved in education appears to have their eyes forward on blended learning powered by adaptive learning technology:

Blended instruction—combining the best of teacher-led and digital instruction—is a key feature of most schools that are designed for personalized learning. Blended instruction helps teachers more effectively meet their students where they are…to identify the level and pace of learning that are just right for them.

More open dialogues, and ongoing feedback, needs to happen between product developers, teachers, and students to ensure they receive the right personalized, and blended, learning solutions. This is the first step in the complex process of empowering teachers to make decisions about what technologies enter their classrooms (a decision almost exclusively made by district leaders). It’s also an invaluable opportunity for product developers to gain a measurable understanding of classroom and pedagogical needs in order to make informed adjustments to their platforms.


The Emphasis on Personalized (Adaptive and Collaborative) Learning Spaces

Teachers want learning space resources that supplement larger pedagogical/curriculum goals, seamlessly connect course content to course concepts, and prepare students for college.

By and large the surveys and interviews demonstrated that teachers look for multidimensional resources—ones that offer rigorous and diverse standards, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) alignment, and Next Generation Science Standards.

When teachers were asked about the virtues they valued most in digital instruction tools it became apparent that personalized learning is at the forefront of their minds. Why is this? Here’s a partial explanation from the report:

Personalized learning ensures that students’ learning experiences—what they learn, and how, when, and where they learn it—are tailored to their individual needs, skills, and interests and enable them to take ownership of their learning.

This desire for personalized learning solutions branches from the realization that learning outcomes can be radically transformed by adaptive learning technology, smarter assessment tools, rigorous practice models, and acute collaboration.


Six Primary Instructional Benefits of Digital Learning Tools Outlined by Teachers

  1. Delivering instruction directly to students
  2. Diagnosing student learning needs
  3. Varying the delivery method of instruction
  4. Tailoring the learning experience to meet individual student needs
  5. Supporting student collaboration and providing interactive experiences
  6. Fostering independent practice of specific skills

*Teacher expectations laid out on a teacher & student-driven spectrum

Teacher Expectations


How Snapwiz Meets, & Prioritizes, the Six Teacher-outlined Instructional Needs

Delivering instruction directly to students. Our platform allows teachers to create and deliver interactive, collaborative, and adaptive content that’s easy to assign and track. We support the creation of instruction materials for K-12 and Higher Education. K-12 teachers can create instruction materials based on Common Core Assessments, and students can view their real-time progress through the standards.

Diagnosing student learning needs. Learning what students know—and need to learn next—has never been easier. We give teachers and students extensive analytic dashboards and skill reports so they can see a panoramic view of learning objectives and learning paths. With actionable insights, teachers can make a positive impact on learning outcomes by drilling down to granular insights covering student performance, problem areas, and individual learning styles.

Varying the delivery method of instruction. When students experience blended learning they’re (in a sense) diversifying their learning process. Personalized learning solutions benefit students by allowing them to interactive with course material in new ways (and in new contexts). We provide students with the opportunity to experience interactive texts, supplemental resources, videos, assessment quizzes, and collaborative learning spaces. Their overall engagement—across each one of these delivery methods—is easily tracked so teachers can make adjustments based upon pacing, skill level, and learning styles.

Tailoring the learning experience to meet individual student needs. We empower teachers and administrators with unlimited pedagogical ownership. (Learn more about our Adaptive Learning Features). They can enjoy full control over assessment widgets and content creation tools that dynamically adapt to student skill levels, preferences, and abilities. Creating powerful adaptive courseware, they can then analyze how students’ progress through the material—making adjustments at any time. All of their decisions, from creating to adjusting content, is informed by rich reports like metacognition, proficiency, and engagement.

Supporting student collaboration and providing interactive experiences. Think online student-to-teacher and student-to-student mentorship. We found a way to enhance and refine collaboration by getting students to work together while also having open dialogues with the instructor. What matters most is getting students involved in social learning that’s contextualized to course content. Through a social media styled Learning Stream students can effortlessly share concepts, questions, and resources—and get the right feedback at the right time.  

Fostering independent practice of specific skills. Students are more engaged, and feel empowered, when they can take control of their own learning process. Understanding the value of this, we give them the unprecedented ability to practice learning material on their own. They can create their own practice tests, and decide for themselves how to zero in on problem areas. They also have the ability to craft their own learning pathways with help from actionable assessment insights and detailed skill reports. Seeing their learning styles in motion for the first time, students leverage this intuitive data to create their own personalized learning space.  

*Take the Assessment Product Tour to see the platform from both the student and teacher perspective.

Teacher Support


Teacher Voices & Further Questions

Hearing teacher voices:

“Student learning is the goal. It must remain the goal. [Technology] must enhance the learning experience in order for it to be implemented in my class—I don’t do technology for the sake of the technology. … Every resource is available to me … but frankly a lot of technology is more ‘gee whiz’ and fails to meet the criteria of enhancing student learning.”

“I feel that technology is an important piece in making our students successful.”

“In my opinion, many currently available options do not feature enough rigor to be useful. I would also appreciate a wide range of differentiation options, and plenty of opportunities for students to self-assess as they work.”

“Technology allows you to expand your collaboration group beyond what is defined by your subject area.”

Both reports, Teachers Know Best & Primary Sources, raise interesting questions that need further research. Here are just a few examples of these questions:

  • How do teachers define effectiveness when it comes to digital learning tools?
  • What’s the best way to get teachers involved in the decision making process?
  • In what ways do teachers offer their own insights, and how closely aligned are they with student needs?
  • Why are only 53% of teachers saying that digital learning tools are useful or adequate?
  • How do developers perceive and mend the inherent gaps?



Teachers Know Best outlined some great ways to begin fruitful dialogues between everyone involved in education. Personalized learning represents a new paradigm shift, but if a given platform isn’t easy to use—or doesn’t offer a recognizable impact—then it’s difficult for teachers to see value in the product. 

Above everything else one point is clear: product developers, district leaders, and investors need to listen closely to teachers. They need to truly value their experiential knowledge because teachers are the greatest measure for what students need. They can offer the most coherent and correspondent perspectives concerning which products help close three pressing education technology gaps outlined by the report: availability; usage; & perceived effectiveness.

Read the full reports: Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instruction Tools & Primary Sources

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  1. […] There’s also: “Prioritize product features that facilitate the six instructional purposes teachers are most looking for help from digital products”; we did our best to outline what we have to offer with respect to the six instructional purposes “Teachers Know Best: How Snapwiz is Meeting Digital Instruction Needs.” […]

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