No one wants new technology more than young people and, sometimes, their teachers. As technology insinuates itself into every aspect of life, we’re all in danger of falling into the new-technology trap. The best way to avoid it in education is with an overarching, simple question: is this technology right for our classrooms?
Underneath this question lie others. And you might consider asking them in partnership with your teachers. An international survey of 8,000 teachers found that 59% believe they should have the last word in what technology is bought for their classrooms. You might not agree about who should make the decisions, but at least you know that teachers want to talk about technology. Their frontline insights should be invaluable to the process.
Question 1: Is this technology going to help students and teachers?
You’re buying classroom technology. A classroom is made up of teachers and students together, so ask yourself if what you’re looking at works for both.
Question 2: Is it easy to understand and to use?
You don’t need the support headaches of constantly explaining or fixing technology that isn’t suitable for a busy environment and users of varying abilities.
Simple doesn’t mean boring or narrow. Simple is good for teachers, so they don’t have to be experts in technology too. And it’s good for students who are easily distracted.
Question 3: Does it solve our problem?
If you haven’t identified a problem, you don’t need new technology. When you know what the problem is, it’s easier to test whether something you’re considering is right for you.
Ask yourself if the tool lets teachers or students do something they couldn’t do before. Look for technology that breaks down some barriers to learning and promotes engagement between teachers and students. These are timeless challenges in education, so the question will work as a test today and tomorrow.
Question 4: Do we have the infrastructure for it?
Schools run into problems when they buy the latest and greatest tools, but their demands can’t be met by networks that didn’t anticipate them. This might be unappreciated by teachers and students, but sometimes the technology you need to take care of first is the stuff that’s behind the scenes.
Question 5: Do students have the infrastructure for it?
When you provide the devices and operating systems, this isn’t a consideration, but if you’re BYOD, this could be your final stumbling block. Software that works with a web browser might not work with the browser on a tablet.
Just like teaching, getting technology choices right requires research and planning. Your teaching staff can help you when it comes to keeping things simple by providing a view of where the real educational value is. With that frame around the question, you’ll make the best choices.