Not all education technology is created for you
A couple of weeks ago we spoke about the six cool educational technology gizmos we really, really want to get our hands on. Now every person needs their cool toys, but education technology products are not the latest hoverboard or drone camera for adults to geek out over. They need to actually serve a purpose and address a need that can’t be fulfilled by existing solutions. Plus, not all education technology holds water and schools are not exactly known to have the deepest pockets. We owe it to our students, teachers, and parents to invest funds wisely.
So here are six questions to ask yourself before investing in the latest education technology product taking the learning world by storm:
Question 1: What is the product made to accomplish and what is my intended use?
While Indians are the champions of jugaad (plumbing leak sealant makes for excellent, and very resilient, sculpting material, for instance), investing in an expensive piece of educational technology that we never end up using is quite the disaster. Do your research (read: internet sleuthing) and ensure the product you are purchasing actually addresses your need. There really is no need to buy expensive drawing tablets for your art class when cheap easels from the local art store will do. They’ll all end up being used as glorified coasters.
Question 2: What is the research going into the product development?
Education technology products must be built in consultation with the target group they are ultimately serving – students, teachers or administrators. The product might be built by the best technologists in the world, but the people who understand the issues that need addressing must define the purpose of the product. Checking on the research and thinking behind product development will help predict how effective it will be in the classroom.
Question 3: Will I need to purchase ancillary products to use this one?
No one intends to join a cult when they purchase a product, but sometimes it just happens. Buying an education technology product from a particular brand should not entail the purchase of all their ancillary products. Investing in one item is expensive enough for a school (most are perennially suffering from a budget crunch and hardly have money to throw around). If the product you intend to purchase requires you to by eight more bits and bobs for you to really be able to use it, consider alternatives.
Question 4: Is this product sustainable?
A temporary problem requires a temporary solution, not spending on an expensive piece of education technology. Your purchase must address an endemic issue or make life easier or more efficient for the foreseeable future. Yes, technology becomes obsolete with time, but the end should not already be nigh. A product purchase is only worth it when you reap benefits for a long time.
Question 5: What is the post-purchase support provided?
Great, you found your dream product. You’ve answered all the questions above the way they should have been answered, even found this nifty discount code, and are ready to hit buy so the little shopping cart icon does its little happy dance. But what about using it? Is the product easy to use? Is comprehensive training provided? Is their customer service responsive? These are not necessities for every piece of education technology being purchased, but they certainly make for some great perks and might tilt the scales in favour of one product over the other.
Question 6: How secure is my data?
Education technology, from its very inception, deals with sensitive data. Whether this is student scores, parents’ financial records for parents, or teacher contact information, you must be confident that this data is being stored securely. Vulnerable data being leaked could spell disaster in terms of security as well as institutional reputability.