Photo via EdTech Entrepreneurs Lab
In our last blog, we discussed the important questions that need to be asked before purchasing an edtech product. Those who are responsible for purchasing education technology need to ask if the product is cost effective, if it will enhance learning, and if it has a short learning curve. Technology staff members at the district and individual school levels have the difficult task of finding affordable technology that will aid in the learning process, and is easy to implement. Finding a product that checks all of these boxes is not always an easy task; The Hechinger Report wrote an article on this very issue in March of last year. BoardShare has compiled a list of resources for finding education technology products.
1. Education product resellers
For individuals looking for new edtech products, exploring education product resellers is a good place to start. A good reseller will do their homework about the products they sell and perform a full evaluation of them; they will also be able to provide some in-depth information about how the device works and the benefits it can have for schools. Many of these companies carry a large variety of education products, though you can find companies that are dedicated to selling a specific type of education products as well. Some of the resellers that work with BoardShare and are incredibly knowledgeable about the products they sell are:
- JourneyEd - JourneyEd sells academic software to members of the educational community in North America, Canada, and Europe. If you are located in the Texas area, contact Tom Dent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Touchboards - Touchboards specializes in and carries a selection of interactive technology.
- Learning Services - Learning Services is one of the largest resellers of educational technology products in America.
- Encore Data Products - Encore Data Products provides schools with high quality audio visual equipment and technology accessories.
- ScholarBuys - A reseller of computer software, hardware and peripherals, ScholarBuys is committed exclusively to the academic institution market.
- En-Net - En-Net is a leading supplier of information technology solutions to public sector entities throughout the USA.
With any reseller that you speak to, ask if they have case studies, demo units, or other resources pertaining to the products you are interested in. It is also beneficial to inquire about setting up webinars to see the product being used.
2. Other Tech Directors
If there is anyone who understands what constitutes a well-made edtech product, it’s a tech director. They can quickly grasp a product’s concept and understand how it can be used in schools. Speaking with tech directors can be incredibly beneficial; they have likely tried a wide array of products, and can share what successes and failures they have had with their past purchases. Daisy Dyer Duerr mentioned that she called schools near and far to find out what grants they had applied for in the past; technology directors can approach finding new edtech products this way as well.
As we briefly touched on in our last blog post, speaking with teachers can be a great way to find out and learn more about edtech products. Because edtech products are most typically used by teachers, they are an incredibly important resource for providing insights into new technologies on the market, and their overall effectiveness in the classroom. Using their professional learning networks, teachers can learn about new products other teachers are using, and relay this info to the individuals responsible for edtech purchases.
Check out Teacher Challenges’ guide for building a professional learning network.
4. Social media
The education community is extremely prevalent on Twitter, and it can help technology directors stay abreast of edtech developments. Those who work in education will often use Twitter to post about the tech devices they love. The edtech hashtag is a great way to stay on top of education technology news, as is joining in on an #edtechchat session. In addition to finding new edtech products, Twitter provides great insights into education technology issues, including implementation and how to use technology to enhance curriculum.
LinkedIn is a vital social media site that, with help from the advanced search option, can help connect technology directors with teachers and other tech directors. It is also a way to find different edtech companies and read more about their mission and specifics of the products they sell.
Blogs are another great way to stay updated about edtech products. Many of the Twitter users BoardShare follows have great blogs. There are numerous blogs written by tech directors and teachers that specifically focus on edtech. One of our favorite tools to sort through blogs is Feedly; this allows you to mark your “must read” blogs and view brief snippets of each post. Using a social media planner like Hootsuite can allow you to sort Twitter accounts into different categories; it may be beneficial to create a “Bloggers” stream on your Hootsuite dashboard.
In addition to posting insightful articles about edtech issues and developments, EdSurge also provides reviews of edtech products. On occasion, they will do in-depth reviews of these products in their articles. They also have a “Products Review” tab at the top of their page, and users can sort through the products in different categories and product type.
Although conferences typically charge a fee for attending, they can be a worthwhile investment for anyone who is interested in learning about new edtech products. We attended ISTE for the first time this year, and we were continually told by teachers and technology directors that they have found so many new products they want to try out. What’s so fantastic about a conference like ISTE is that it provides attendees the opportunity to consider edtech products that they never thought they would have needed.
For next Monday's post, we will share how to implement education technology after it is purchased.