Schools Fail at Purchasing Tech

Photo credit: Nima Badiey (Creative Commons)

Photo credit: Nima Badiey (Creative Commons)

Schools Fail at Purchasing Tech is the outcome from the recent study by Digital Promise and the Education Industry Association. Their findings showed that the present day purchasing system in place in schools today is based on buying text books, not technology. How can schools implement learning technology successfully when they are faced with the bureaucratic red tape of dealing with the existing structure of purchasing practices? Apparently, not well. Think how quickly the digital landscape is changing and what's innovative today is démodé within a matter of months. The reality is, teachers don’t have the training to learn the tech let alone teach with it.

Schools also Fail at Implementing Tech. Some time ago,  I wrote a blog about this very topic: I Know My Way Around an iPad...  "Knowing how to use an iPad and knowing how to teach lessons to a class of students with an iPad, are two very different scenarios." Management is a critical component in every classroom and this will be even more paramount when tech is deployed. I can't emphasize enough how critical it is that schools start first with teacher training and continue that teacher training with ongoing and robust programs. It would be ideal if some of the more tech savvy educators could step up and help those teachers that are struggling with tech. However, those teachers that are trying to take themselves to the next level, without compensation, and with all their other draconian responsibilities, it is not going to happen.

I have first hand experience in this dilemma. The school I taught in made the decision to employ a 1:1 iPad initiative for grades 6,7,8. Teachers were given marginal training prior to deployment on the basics of using an iPad and no training in how to teach a class of 20 - 25 students who each had their own device. I saw more iPads sit in drawers or what we called “the guilt bag,” essentially, your modern day briefcase that is toted back and forth everyday from work to home and back again.

If schools are failing at purchasing technology, they are also negligent in teacher training and provide superficial professional development. It is the system and the hierarchy that are stuck in another era and education will remain a sore spot until we as a society insist upon radical restructuring of a model that evolved during the industrial revolution. I'm not saying anything new here, just affirming that for the most part the archaic state of schools remains the same as the sophistication of technology soars.

In order for success, both purchasing and implementation of technology need a serious make-over in the present day school system. Want to read more, here is the conclusion of the Digital Promise study.

Creative Commons/amboo who?

Creative Commons/amboo who?

6 Important Takeaways from the study:

Know What You Need
Many schools do not have a formal process for assessing
what classrooms actually need and, in turn, can’t specify
what product attributes and services will best meet their
goals. It’s important for schools to be more structured
and precise in assessing instructional needs.

Discover What’s Out There
Purchasing learning technology is not like purchasing textbooks.
In a market flooded with evolving products across content areas
and application types, it’s hard for providers to stand out and
for schools to learn what’s available. We need more sources for
trusted information about products and their effectiveness.

Involve the End Users
Because there are so many variables in how teachers interact
with and use learning technology, their input should be included
in purchasing decisions. In many districts, however, it is not. The
people most directly affected by the tools that are purchased
should have a more central role in selecting and testing them.

Level the Playing Field
Technology providers cite time delays, unclear district processes
and policies, and a lack of clarity around instructional needs as
barriers. It’s even more difficult for newer providers who struggle
to get discovered. In a buyer’s market, we need mechanisms
to reward products that fit classroom needs, are informed by
current educational research, and produce results for students.

Focus on Evidence
Many school leaders say evidence of a product’s effectiveness is
key to making purchasing decisions. But many providers say they
can’t afford the kinds of proof, like randomized control trials, that
schools want. And even when they do, districts often don’t trust
the evidence or understand its context. Faster, cheaper alternatives
for proving effectiveness, like formal pilots, case studies, and
small comparison-group designs, will help bridge these gaps.

Design Better Pilots
Pilots are one way for districts and providers to collaborate in
field-testing products before broader adoption. Many schools
use pilots but they are often informal. With a structure that
generates evidence around product efficacy and leads to a data-driven
“go” or “no-go” purchase decision, pilots can be useful locally and for
other districts considering similar products.

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