Here at EdSurge, we get peppered with a lot of questions about edtech. The grandaddy of them all is: “Which tool should I buy?”
While we do take a close look at hundreds of different edtech tools and solutions, it’s difficult to prescribe what’s best for any particular user. (Nor are we comfortable with shouldering that responsibility.)
Most recently, a director of staff development at a district in South Carolina asked us what product he should use to deliver professional development courses to teachers. It’s hard to give a straight answer without knowing the nuances of how the district operates or the outcomes it wants.
So instead of offering a simple yes/no response, we came up with a list of questions to guide districts in making buying decisions for PD tools. These questions are based on the work we’ve done to profile professional development products. You can find the product reports here and here.
Engagement: Forming Community and Networks
Do you need a tool that allows your teachers to connect and collaborate throughout a course--and even after the course is finished?
What level of social networking do teachers want or need?
Do your teachers want to bring professional learning communities online?
How much needs to happen in-person and how much online?
Learning: Experts and Expertise
How much content will the district create themselves and how much do they need to port over from other resources?
Does the tool support integrating content from other resources?
What kind of support does the tool offer for course creation? Is the process scaffolded or do they present you with a blank slate to shelve content you’ve already developed?
Is the district interested in sharing courses with the broader education community? Or do they want to keep it private within their district?
Support: Mentoring and Coaching
How will teachers choose a course? Will you assign them based on their experience level, or is it up to them to choose, or is a mentor involved?
Do you want a tool that automatically recommends courses or provides a course catalogue for teachers to choose from?
Do you need a private place for mentors to connect with teachers? Do you do this individually or as a group?
Do you want to enable teachers to upload and share their own content?
Do you need to integrate that with any other HR systems in the district?
Accountability: Evaluation and Following Through
What kind of data do you need to track?
Is it important for your district to integrate data with other systems you are currently using?
What kind of credits, badging or other incentive systems does your district use? Will this tool support those incentive systems?
Are you paying for other systems to support PD work?
Do those systems overlap?
Could you consolidate multiple systems into one to save money? Does a multisystem approach make sense?