The Do's and Don'ts of Picking Technology for Schools

Technology Tips

The Do's and Don'ts of Picking Technology for Schools

Setting realistic goals and expectations for tech solutions

By Greg Klein     Apr 29, 2013

The Do's and Don'ts of Picking Technology for Schools

Depending on who you ask, education technology is in the midst of a renaissance or a Wild West period. There are companies and organizations small and large, new and old, those venturing into new territory, those being disrupted by upstarts.

It's become very clear to me that for any edtech tool to work well, you have to shop (or build) with the end users in mind, generally meaning teachers and kids. You have to try out products with those end users in real life to really know what’s working for you and what’s not.

I do not envy the position of all the entrepreneurs and employees at these companies. No doubt they have a tough job helping us customers understand what is possible through edtech. I also believe, though, that the most successful companies will be those that most clearly develop products that solve real, clear, specific problems faced by teachers and kids each day. And at a reasonable price point.

The following table is a brief summary of some of my learnings with educational technology over the last few years directly working in my own Learning Lab with students and supporting other teachers and principals “go blended”.

Be very clear about the problem you're trying to solve by utilizing whatever the "solution" is (website, online content, creation app, LMS...) Expect to find the perfect solution in one tool/company.
Ask yourself "how could I fit this program/tool into my classroom/school?"
Get as much as you can out of free tools; use them to practice classroom routines, procedures and to build culture. Learn what parts of your problem they do not solve and be a smarter consumer of premium content. Vendors will sell you a November-June contract. Unless you consider yourself a bleeding-edge innovator with an integration partner, don't go looking to implement more than three tools at the same time. Consider the support a single adult needs to do each solution well.
Give your teachers an online assessment tool. Spend a lot of money on it.
Sign up for free trials and demo accounts and play the games/lessons as a student will experience them. Buy anything or try anything in real life with kids unless you’ve already done it yourself.
When purchasing, be sure that your vendor(s) gives you access to all the data you require, that they are flexible with their terms and that they are willing to integrate with the integrators. Sign long/massive contracts before you know that a product works well for your context.
Remember that products and tools are only as good as the specific implementation by the adults in charge. There is no magic. Expect a tool to be “adult-proof.” For every tool, results will vary depending on the quality of implementation (and by correlation, quality of support and training of) the adult in charge.
Stay nimble and keep learning. Companies change. Products change. Fall too in love with any thing or any particular feature. Companies change. Products change.
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