What to Ask Before Your Next Ed-Tech Purchase

There’s no shortage of ed-tech products out there. And the choices can feel overwhelming.

All too often, districts make the mistake of rushing into their purchases, which can lead to staff frustration, budget losses, and bad press — not to mention serious setbacks to student achievement.

Before you buy the latest and greatest ed-tech simply because it’s the latest and greatest, take a step back and make sure your decision is based on a sound learning strategy.

Remember: Technology is not a solution for better learning; it’s simply a tool to support it.

If you’ve determined technology is the right choice for your students, there’s a number of things you should consider before taking the next step.

Writing for EdSurge, Kerry Gallagher and Ross Cooper put together a list of questions every teacher, staff member, and school leader should ask before an ed-tech purchase.

Here’s a sampling:

What content do we want students to learn?
This could be the most important question to ask. What should your students be learning? And what’s the best way to nurture that learning?

What your students learn is more important than how they learn. In other words, content is king. An app with all the bells, whistles, and flashy features is great, but if it doesn’t teach your students what they need to know, it’s useless.

Will our students be consumers or creators when they use this app?
Smartphones have made us all constant consumers of online content. But mobile devices and digital tools have also made it easy for anyone to create that content.

Whatever program or app you’re considering, make sure it pushes students to think creatively,  collaborate with one another, and develop their own content — instead of just taking in what others put out.

Is there a better (or cheaper) app that achieves the same purpose?
Don’t jump to buy the first app you see. Even if a product seems to have all of the features you want and address all of the problems you need to solve, take a second look. There may be other apps that do the same exact thing better — or cheaper.

Once you determine what you need from technology, do an exhaustive search for the product that addresses those needs.

Does the app promote our school and district “best practices”?
No matter how promising a new ed-tech product may seem, make sure it’s aligned with your district’s values and goals.

As Gallagher and Cooper point out, if your school is focused on developing critical math skills and procedures, an app that teaches flashcard-like memorization of math problems is probably not the best choice.

One more thing: If you’re not sure which product is right for your schools, check with your colleagues, your students, and your parents. They know first-hand what will enhance the learning experience and improve student achievement.

Give your community a voice — the chance to ask their own questions — and make sure they understand your decision-making process.

For the full list of questions, take a look at Gallagher and Cooper’s post in EdSurge.

What’s your process when searching for ed-tech? Do you involve your community? Tell us in the comments.

Want to involve your community in your ed-tech decisions? A technology survey can help you start.

Author: Todd Kominiak

Todd Kominiak is Managing Editor of TrustED.

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