Important Questions To Ask Before Purchasing EdTech Products
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Navigating education technology and the many facets that go into it can be incredibly challenging. From delegating a budget for education technology, to finding a product and implementing it in schools, it can be an extremely taxing process. In this three-part blog series, we will be going over the stages of purchasing, finding, and implementing education technology.
Through speaking with teachers, principals, and chief technology officers, we have learned that, when it comes to purchasing new technology for schools, there are important questions that need to be asked. We also learned more about must-ask questions from ISTE attendees.
Dan Blevins, Instructional Technology Specialist at Killough Middle School, talked with us about the questions he asked during the purchasing process. One of the first topics he discussed was what the staff members wanted to get out of the technology. His school was thinking about procuring interactive whiteboards, but he first needed to ask himself if interactive whiteboards were going to be truly effective and aid in the learning process. Upon further discussion with the teachers, Blevins understood how interactive whiteboards would be used to enhance students’ understanding of the lessons. In our last blog post, we mentioned that Daisy Dyer Duerr’s ultimate goal was to have her students to become proficient on different technological devices. It is important that staff members discuss their goals for their students, and purchase technology that will help them achieve that goal.
Blevins also needed to ask if the products he was looking at were easy to implement. Does the product have a short learning curve? If not, how much time is available to devote to training the teachers on the new devices? Blevins preferred a product that would be easy to set up and would have a short and rapid learning curve. He knew that if the product was difficult for the teachers to learn, they wouldn’t use it. It was also crucial for him to purchase technology from a company that offered support and training. If he called the company with questions, would they be able to answer these questions and provide helpful product insights?
We heard from many ISTE attendees who said they wished they had discussed the cost effectiveness of technology over time. For many educators, they were excited about a product when it was first purchased; it appeared to be cost effective and a good investment, but they ultimately became disappointed with the recurring costs for software updates. Many of the purchased devices quickly needed to be replaced due to product malfunctions and general wear and tear; it ended up costing their schools more money than anticipated.
“You can’t always predict how a product is going to hold up over time,” one ISTE attendee told us. “But you should be able to look at products and get a general idea for how well they’ll last. The product should be able to adapt and change along with the curriculum.” Blevins needed to figure out how much of the budget he was willing to spend on a new product. Even after purchasing new technology for the school, Blevins wanted to have enough money to spend on other essential technology needs.
Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask is “what have others said about this product?”
“I love conferences like ISTE, because I’m able to talk with other teachers and hear about their experience with certain products,” another ISTE attendee told us. Teachers are the ultimate end user for any education technology product. When a teacher endorses a product, it speaks volumes about the product’s effectiveness. Speaking with other teachers is a great way to find out more about a product’s lifespan as well.
It is clear that there are many important factors that go into making an education technology purchase. One of the biggest challenges is actually finding a product that does well in the areas of affordability, effectiveness, and ease of implementation. How can schools find a product that checks off all the important boxes? We’ll discuss in our blog post next Monday.