Edtech is a multi-billion dollar business. Edtech purchases have increased 5 times over the past five years. However, are these purchases actually doing students any good where it counts? Are they actually benefitting students in the classroom? As a technology in schools advocate, I urge all educators to carefully research and purchase devices and programs for their schools. With education funding trending downwards, it is vital that schools and districts purchase Edtech smartly.
Here are five ways to smartly purchase Edtech for your school / district:
- Have a vision for the use of the product before you buy it
I have had the good fortune of speaking with many school and district tech coordinators over the past decade. One of the most common concerns they have is that they come across boxes and boxes of untouched laptops and tablets in storage rooms. Thousands of dollars in technology are sitting idle, collecting dust. Schools have been in a frenzy to pick up these devices over the past 10 years because that’s what educational leaders were told to do. There was never a vision for how these tools were to be used by students and teachers. By the time the items are considered for use, they are obsolete. Before you buy, have your vision in place.
- Make sure teachers are onboard with the purchase
Schools should have tech committees that demo different tools, programs, and devices to ensure that the product is right. It is important that teachers from around the school get to interact with the product to gain their thoughts and stamp of approval on it before spending limited funds. You want to create excitement about a product, not surprise and dismay when it shows up unannounced and not vetted in a teacher’s classroom.
- Ensure that new devices / software are compatible with school / district systems
There is nothing worse than getting excited about a particular software or tool, testing it out, getting a quote, purchasing it, and then finding out that your school’s infrastructure can’t handle the traffic. It is important that school leadership work closely with district techs and understand the capabilities of the current infrastructure. Furthermore, school leaders need to tell district techs what they will need in the future.
- Understand the maintenance / replacement costs
Sadly, devices don’t last forever. They must all be replaced at a certain point in time. While it might seem like a great idea to purchase a fleet of laptops or tablets with one-time grant money, always keep in mind that money must be put aside for maintenance of these devices for years to come. You don’t want to spend $50,000 on a one-to-one laptop program only to have to pull back three years later because too many of them are broken and there is no more money for replacements or repairs.
- Ensure that your purchase is attached to learning objectives
I have seen countless posts on social media of students using tech. In most of these posts, I can’t discern a learning objective or a reason for using the tech other than for the purpose of posting something on social media. At the end of the day, remember that it is about pedagogy, not technology that drives student learning. Don’t rush out and buy the popular, shiny toy that everyone else is using just because read about it on Twitter. Make sure that there is a reason for your purchase.
Dr. David Franklin, CEO of The Principal’s Desk, is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.principalsdesk.org.