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The EdTech Podcast: #238 – Digital Strategy for Schools
Podcast length: 48 min. Blog est. read time: 2 min.
The vast selection and variation in the EdTech market can prove overwhelming and yet among all those options the perfect solution for a specific school may not even exist yet.
It is important for each school to develop its own idea of a North Star for their EdTech purchases. There should be one clear goal that can guide school leaders on selecting the right tools despite all the distractions. However, a clear path forward is only illuminated when decision-makers ask essential questions around implementation, the way tools are leveraged, and the change they want to see in the classroom.
The spotlight of this podcast is on Al Kingsley, author of My Secret EdTech Diary, MAT Leader and EdTech CEO. His specialty is in researching and analyzing EdTech installations in schools around the world to identify what works and what needs improvement. Kingsley found that typically, when EdTech doesn’t get used, it was less about the technology itself and more about the way in which it was implemented.
First off, Kingsley suggested school leaders ask, “What are we trying to achieve?” People naturally want to see an immediate impact in terms of dollars or performance improvements, but each piece of EdTech must be evaluated with a comprehensive understanding of its purpose in order to see valuable results. Educational technology is merely a facilitator, not the key itself. The key, rather, is to embed EdTech in existing teaching practices so that educators can accurately measure its impact over time.
However, many of the assumptions and expectations of immediate gratification when it comes to EdTech are generated from the technology itself and those who create it. In Kingsley’s research, he saw that when buying digital whiteboards, the one-size-fits-all approach to the technology did not adequately accommodate the needs of individual classrooms, often rendering the technology unused — or at least not to its full potential. However, this gap in its user experience is bridged by EdTech providers who make it their mission to target the needs of each school with multiple touchscreen models on the market, each with customizable technology, and essential learning software..
Kingsley found that few EdTech providers think long-term considering how schools are funded. After a school secures funds for a specific type of EdTech, there is rarely a continuity plan that takes into consideration how school needs will change over time. Four or five years down the line, schools are often left with technology that is outdated and must be upgraded or replaced.
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Preventing EdTech Mistakes
The technology with the most bells and whistles isn’t necessarily indicative of the best product or one that will best fulfill a classroom’s needs. Because schools quite literally cannot afford to make mistakes when purchasing big ticket technology, it remains imperative to focus on the evidence above all else. Gather the research, look over the case studies and how the tools made a positive impact.
In his research, Kingsley also identified that the more people who were empowered to be part of the EdTech journey, the better the outcome of the technology was. It is the responsibility of decision-makers to not only understand the needs of educators, but also the needs of students and families, making the process a collaborative one. Only then can tools reach their fullest potential in the classroom.
When they became involved early in the process, even hard-to-reach families became more engaged and communicative. Kingsley saw students’ digital literacy skills increase exponentially, along with their ability to research, verify information and practice online safety in and beyond the classroom.
Asking the Right Questions
The strategy behind finding and implementing the right EdTech is an art. Above all, school stakeholders want to be sure that they have chosen the most effective tools and that teachers can derive the most value from them. It starts with involving all the stakeholders early on - IT, teachers, parents, administration – so you can be sure you are asking the right questions to find the right tools. With that background, school leaders can make collaborative and informed decisions. Technology has helped many schools achieve their goals when the tasks were clear and teachers had the support they needed to use the tech effectively.