The burgeoning of the educational technology sector has left educators with an overwhelming number of technology tool options.Technology tools include web 2.0 applications, apps, software, and anything that requires an electronic device. Inevitably some tools are better than others. Ask yourself the questions below before adopting a K-12 tech tool for your division:
1. What is the purpose of the tech tool? I’m a huge Simon Sinek fan so I have to add you have to start with why! Knowing why you are looking to adopt the tool should be priority. If you don’t know that answer, start again.
2. Does it meet a specific instructional need? Technology for the sake of technology is never a good answer.
3. Can the tool’s benefits be measured/tracked over time?
4. What are the technical requirements for the tool?Do you have the resources available to support it?
5. Is it free? If not, have you considered free alternative first? Look at free options first. If they don’t meet your needs, look to options that cost money. Today, there are so many free options, it’s hard to justify purchasing highly expensive subscriptions. Lately I’ve been hearing the word “freemium” to describe tools that you can use for free but will have to pay to access to certain options.
6. Does the company offer a free trial? If so, have you tried it?The free version is a great way to take tool out for a “test drive.” If you are not excited enough to try it in four weeks, you aren’t interested enough to purchase the paid version.
7. What are your expertise? Are you qualified to make an informed decision or should you seek help? It’s perfectly acceptable to reach out to your colleagues who may have a better understanding of a specific subject than you.
8. What are the Terms of Service? Be on the look out for age limits and “click wrap agreements” that state terms of service can change at any time without notice.
9. What does the company do with student data? If you are a public school division receiving the E-rate discount for your Internet service you are required to maintain compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).
10. Does it require student email? If so, does your division provide students with email accounts?
11. How will you deploy/implement the tool to the end user?
12. What is the learning curve? How will you differentiate training to the end users?The best answer is “the tool is intuitive and will require minimum training and support” but that will never be the case for all potential users. In every school, there are teachers who do not feel confident using technology so keep them in mind when planning your training.
13. Who will maintain the log ins, subscription, and renewal fees?Face it, time is a commodity most of us are lacking. If the tech tool requires bulk uploads or maintenance, consider the capacity of your faculty.
14. What type of customer support is available?A big turn off for me is when a tech company doesn’t predominately display contact information on their website. The best customer service combines phone, email, live chat support, and extensive HELP documents. All good tech tools will go out of their way to makes sure users don’t get frustrated when using their product.
15. Would you be happy if your child was using it?It’s interesting what happens when you put on your “parent hat.” If you paid for the app, would you be mad? Would you delete it quickly from disuse? Put yourself in the place of the end user despite your current role.
If you an answer the questions below then, congratulations you are ready to make an informed tech tool decision! Are there any I missed? Let me hear them!