There are reasons why making use of technology is important in education.
Apart from walking hand in hand with the development and changes in time, we cannot deny that the benefits of integrating technology are compelling. Individuals using it on a personal level in the form of various web tools and apps signify that these apps and tools are actually bringing some value to the user. And so we have a lot to choose from. But when we talk of integrating a particular tool at the school level there are a lot of things that needs to be considered.
Let’s assume that the school has to invest in an ERP or LMS. These technologies in institution will be used by students, educators, administration and in some cases parents as well. So, the decision making authority faces this dilemma where they are not being able to prioritize the needs of a set of stakeholders in the institution.
For every technology integrated, it is essential that it serves the following purposes:
- For the benefit of students and parents
- For the benefit of educators
- For the benefit of administration
However, there are times when a single product may not cater to all the needs. And in those cases the school has to either pick another option or use multiple tools. To help you with this important decision, I’ve compiled a list of questions with reasons that you MUST ask yourself before you dump your faith, time and money in the soon to be integrated edtech.
The following questions will help school leaders like you make a wise decision on investing in edtech. Take a look!
1. Who Is It For? Who Will Be Benefited?
Integration of technology is being done keeping the purpose and the lot who will be on the end of massive benefits in mind. So it is essential that you are completely through with these objectives. The choice of your product must meet your primary goals and reasons for integrating the technology.
Another aspect to this is the person who will be operating this technology and what all skills will be required by the team handling it. See point 7.
2. Is The Product Adaptable And Flexible For Your Future Needs?
The dynamic nature of technology keep surprising us with better features every once in a while. Also, the progressive changes in the curriculum can happen with changes in the needs of the world. Keeping both the things in mind you must look into the capabilities of the tool that you will be using. Is the product designed in a way where it can cater to the changes required by the institution if needed. Clear these things out with the company before you look further into it.
3. Is The Website Helpful?
So we all have been through thousands of website and we can’t deny that look of the website does have an impact on us. But it is rightly said that looks can be deceiving. So look for content rather than be flattered by their marketing gimmicks. The website must answer your queries and check if it is responsive to your queries. Try on these things to know what you are going to invest in.
See if the product have a rich, helpful website with the answers you need? Are there tutorials to walk through both the basics and more advanced features? A full set of FAQs, and help for students? This information should be easy to find, easy to navigate, and frequently updated.
The jazziest website with the prettiest graphics is no good to a teacher who is just looking for an answer to their pressing question.
4. What Do Other People Say About It?
It’s always good to know from people who are actually using it. And we all are familiar of this thing as the thing goes similarly with our personal purchasing/investing decisions. Check out the testimonials or case studies on their website. Also, feel free to reach out these people and other from your community to get a better understanding from those who are actually practicing with the tool. Ask them how they’ve used it, and what problems and issues they’ve had. More important, ask them about what it’s been like working with the company.
5. How Do They Handle Your Data?
Data privacy is the top concern for any institution and so the edtech companies need to be transparent with what they do with all of your data and the security parameters for all of your data must be explained to you. See how safe your data is? Is it encrypted, and password protected? Who is that information shared with especially the student information, or how is it used for marketing purposes?
6. How Is The Customer Service, And How Responsive Are They To Issues And Defects?
One of the worst failings of a company comes in the form of bad or nonexistent customer service. I am sure you will research about the product before deciding on it and that is when you should look into the customer service offered by the provider. Whether or not you find it, check to see if the person making the sale can answer your questions. If the sales representative cannot answer questions about customer service, particularly about responsiveness, that should be a big red flag on the product.
7. How Is The Tool Used And If The Training Is Being Provided?
Now this is one important aspect to technology integration. It is necessary that you have an understanding of the digital literacy and technical skills that the product requires the user to have v/s what the user actually possess. If they are on the same page, it’s great but if not then it is a thing of complication. The next point to this is if they actually train the user as in how one can actually utilize the product to the max. This also speaks of the company’s willingness to assist their customer with problems faced. So this is one green check!
8. Do I Need To Buy Anything Else To Get The Product To Work, Or To Enhance Its Potential?
There are Softwares and tools that require some particular devices in order to run smoothly. Make sure you know everything that is required to get the product to function as intended or improve its performance. Many products come with additional tools. It is just a matter of asking to find out what else you will get with your purchase (or if another purchase is required). And obviously, you can’t ignore the cost involved in all of these decisions. So if additional support is required it means addition to funds required!
9. The People And Idea Behind The Product
Just like any other industry, edtech products are also a response to the identified need be it real or perceived. now the main question is whether the company has actually worked with the practitioners (educators) to ensure that they are being able to address the concerns and needs or if the company is actually trying to tell industry which direction they need to go in and what will work best for them.
To make sure consider searching the background of the people and team behind the product. What background and experiences do they have? If the leaders are not educators themselves, do they have an advisory team or a “brain trust” of some kind to bring practical classroom experiences to the table?
There should be a transparency about the whole thing. If you are left with more questions than answers, it doesn’t instill much confidence in you as a potential buyer. And mark this that the best products are a result of listening to the people in the field.
10. What Other Options Do You Have?
Edtech products are all around but not all are equal. And so this brings you the choice of making your pick. Check what other alternatives you have and compare the cost along with the other services that they provide.
There Are Other Considerations…
There are other questions to consider when evaluating a new piece of technology but the biggest consideration must be what problem the tool will solve for you or which opportunities it will enable.
Technology alone cannot fix underlying challenges. You will require skill set and process to support any implementation and here I believe the backing of your IT team and other functions plays a key role.
Give a thought whether you're making their lives easier or harder. The best to do is to get all of your stakeholders in the room to discuss the implementation and make sure that the vendor knows everyone who's affected and who should be involved in the decision.
And as said, Great vendors will be able to support you throughout the entire process and help you navigate the implementation plan and testing.
Note that the first step in integration of technology is to overcome the fear of making use of it!
So, it’s GREAT if you have a green check on all the questions above but if not, don’t be fearful of getting in action. It can be a little difficult to get something that meets all the vivid needs of the institution with one single pick so be open to try things out; and make the leap.
But, integrate the tool deeply only when you become sure that this is what can actually help people across the institutions and figure your way through it. It is important that you keep trying even after you face the obvious tech hitches and failures that will be there.
So, what according to you are the pillars of making this key decision for any school leader?
Share with us in the comment section below.