It is always a good time to review spending and look for possible savings
United States schools spent over $27 billion on edtech in 2021. If your district is like many others, there’s plenty of opportunity to trim the fat in edtech budgets.
Virtual learning led to experimentation, which is good. Now that school is evolving and federal COVID relief dollars are running out, it’s time to take a good, long look at edtech efficacy, use, and budgets. Which are worth the investment? Here’s a high-level look at how to begin to answer that question.
1. Find the apps
This is the hard part—the perpetual whack-a-mole of identifying loopholes, one-offs, and shadow apps.
The number of tech products has nearly tripled over the past six years. That’s a lot of apps to track, not to mention learn, and maintain. According to a customer survey by Lightspeed Analytics, districts reported more than 2,000 apps in use. 300 apps made up 99% of total usage, while an additional 1,700 apps were used less frequently.
2. Evaluate efficacy
Another hard part.
If the app has no proven, vested interest in education, does it belong? Maybe.
Surface-level first impressions don’t always tell the whole story—for example, non-educational apps such as social media platforms may still play a niche role in certain classrooms. But not every app marketed for education is actually educational anyway.
Pro tip: look for independent and peer-reviewed research instead of research bought and paid for by an edtech start-up. Remember: efficacy might look different for individual platforms, especially for administrative software. Learn how different districts have navigated the complex process of choosing new SIS and ERP systems that weather decades of use.
3. Eliminate duplicates and risks
Now things are getting a little easier, at least technically. It can be difficult to pare down apps that do similar things—after all, there’s a reason they were all chosen by the educators using them.
Curriculum guidelines can help. Watch for similar apps and trim the overlap.
4. Compare the market
Don’t get fooled by flash.
Edtech companies sell edtech. Edtech partners support edtech users. The market is shifting to favor the latter, but that doesn’t mean the former is going to disappear. On the contrary, they may even get more tenacious. Remember, marketing budget and targeted ads ≠ efficacy. Be especially wary of companies who make bold claims without the (independent, peer-reviewed) proof to back them up.
5. Ask your neighbors
What do you do when you’re in the market for a large investment at home? You read reviews, and reviews are gold. Word of mouth is the best way to get a real, honest look at the good and the bad of edtech (and many other things).
Most district leaders truly enjoy comparing notes on what is working and what isn’t, and are happy to share both good and bad experiences.
6. Adjust school culture
Now that you’ve purged your edtech, how will you prune future additions to ensure the plethora of applications doesn’t grow wild?
This is a function for the IT department of course, but it’s also a culture question. There will always be a trendy new application educators want to explore—at least, we hope so. It’s how edtech will evolve. Build a sense of caution into the school technology culture. After all, students deserve the most effective, safest edtech available, and that’s not always the newest, flashiest edtech.
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