IDEO, Digital Promise Dissect Education Technology Procurement

IDEO, Digital Promise Dissect Education Technology Procurement

Guiding questions to help educators figure out how to buy the right tools

By Tony Wan     Jun 4, 2013

IDEO, Digital Promise Dissect Education Technology Procurement

This article is part of the guide: Education Technology 101: From Assessments to Zombies.

With an avalanche of new incubators, companies, products and services on the edtech market, the issue of how big districts can work with small startups merits serious attention.

But, as nonprofit Digital Promise admits, "procurement can be a tricky, unsexy topic...[many] bemoan the process as muddled, inefficient, and even frightening."

It's these thorny, seemingly intractable issues that Digital Promise and the League of Innovative Schools were created to tackle. And so, in collaboration with IDEO, the two published a report last week, "Evolving Ed-Tech Procurement in School Districts."

Based on interviews and workshops with entrepreneurs, non-profits, and representatives from the League of Innovative Schools (including both small rural districts and big urban ones) the richly visual report does a commendable job identifying six outstanding obstacles in the convoluted procurement process. These issues then lead to five high-level concepts for how educators and districts can work towards better dialogue among themselves and with vendors.

Expect more questions than answers--and that's the point. For those familiar with the design thinking lingo, this report is very much about "problem discovery." The challenges are intended to guide schools and districts to experiment and come up with their own solutions. The appendix even has worksheets to help them jot down their own pain points, stakeholders, and long-term goals.

The keyword, in the title, is "evolving." Many of the suggestions require educators to rethink their roles, or adopt new ones. The report offers examples of how other industries also tackled procurement issues, and it will be interesting to see how these lessons may apply within the constraints of classrooms, schools and districts.

"We think there are universal principles that can be applied across our lead districts, but we don’t intend to be too prescriptive. Not every district will follow the same steps. The idea is to break down the problem and figure out how to solve it," said Sara Schapiro, Director of the League of Innovative Schools.

In the coming weeks, her team will be following up with the participants around the five solution concepts raised in the report:

  • simplifying procurement
  • schools "incubating" companies and entrepreneurs
  • increased transparency about costs and purchasing process
  • 7 Steps to Creative Financing
  • bottoms-up planning approach to connect teachers and admins

Schapiro and the Digital Promise team will be sharing findings in the upcoming months. In the meantime, if your school or district has anything to share on these five points, we invite you to share them in the comments below.

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