Evaluating edtech – 6 questions to ask before buying
There seems to be this great rush to have the latest and greatest technology in the classroom. You have to get the newest Chromebooks or iPads, or try out digital printers or VR equipment. Your students should be pushing the boundaries and learning on all the available technological wonders.
But should schools be jumping right in and buying the latest device or software on the market? The simple answer is actually no. It’s essential to make sure you are evaluating edtech properly to ensure that it will really help your students. “We’re in an age now where tech is moving so rapidly and we don’t want to just do something to do it,” says Todd Keruskin, assistant superintendent at Elizabeth Forward School District in Pennsylvania.
At Mobile Guardian, we put together a list of six questions you should be exploring before you purchase any edtech for your school:
1. What do you want the edtech to do?
Like anything that you introduce into your classroom, your edtech should have a specific purpose. It’s also important to have certain learning outcomes in mind. This will help you when evaluating the edtech because you’ll have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve. You can then test the product to see if it’ll give you what you need.
Remember to always keep in mind that “if a tool is delivering course content to students, it should be built on a foundation of clear learning objectives, aligned to state standards.”
2. What value does it really add?
Now that you have your list of requirements and the specific need you are trying to address with your edtech, you can look at what value it will add to your classroom. Having technology for the sake of having technology is never going to be worthwhile.
In many cases, when you really evaluate your edtech, you’ll find that you’re simply switching a normal lesson plan for a digital version. This may be exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s worth trying to find something that adds a bit more than merely going digital. Another important element to evaluate is whether or not the edtech can grow and adapt with the changing requirements of the modern world.
See if the product adds “new avenues for learning”. Find out if it can provide reports on how your students are performing or progressing through a subject. This could be invaluable information for a teacher to ensure that no child gets left behind. It’s important to remember that “if technology-based interventions are to be used as part of a school improvement plan, then they are subject to the evidence-based requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2016.”
3. How much will it cost to roll out?
This is a big one. The cost of your proposed edtech will often determine whether or not your school or district will approve the purchase. This is why it’s so important to run all of the numbers and look at all of the variables.
First of all, ask if the program or device is actually designed for use in school. If not, will you have to spend money, time and effort on adapting it to do what you want? Once you know this, look at whether or not there is a per-child cost or if it’s a solution that can be used as is in your classroom.
Now you know the value of the edtech in terms of dollars and cents. The next step is to look at how you interpret that value to the school. You need to decide what outcomes or improvements you want to see in your students as a direct result of this edtech. If it can help you achieve this with ease, it’s probably worth the price.
4. Can you try before you buy?
The box might say it’s simple to use and anyone can pick it up. But we all know that isn’t always the case. Additionally, what’s easy to one person might not be to someone else. This is why a free trial period (with all of the functionality available) is great when it comes to evaluating edtech.
Many companies offer in-school demos or the opportunity to run a pilot program. For example, you can get access to the Mobile Guardian MDM software and run a full demo in your classroom before you pay. An option like this will allow you to really get into the nitty gritty of any edtech and work out if it’s what you want and need. Just make sure you have your clearly defined goals in place before you trial anything.
5. What does the after-sales support look like?
You’ve bought the edtech. Someone has set it all up in your classroom. You’re ready to get teaching with it. But sometimes it might not be that simple. This is where after-sales support comes into play.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to using edtech effectively in the classroom is making sure you can use it to the maximum. Sometimes this requires training from the company that sold it you or from the creators themselves. Other times, you just need someone on standby to answer questions as you make your way through all of the options.
6. Does it encourage safety?
It’s incredibly important for your edtech to assist you with keeping your students away from online dangers. These include websites that have mature content on them, bad influences and dangerous parties that operate online, and the threat of cyberbullying amongst the students.
Start evaluating edtech with confidence
By going through these questions whenever you look at bringing any new edtech into your classroom, you are ensuring that you are getting the right tools for the job. We took the time to apply these questions to our Mobile Device Management software at Mobile Guardian and the outlook is good. We offer a wide range of security features to help keep students safe. You can scale the product to suit your needs now and in the future. You’re able to try out your solution first thanks to product demos and a free trial period.