Emerging Technologies: Avoiding the Marketing Trap

Cross posted at http://www.emergingedtech.org/penn-teller-water-bottle-survey/ 

Developers of technology devices and services for students and teachers are becoming increasingly aggressive with their marketing to schools.  Many promise unique selling points which promise to make their product  more desirable than that of competitors, but some of what they say may not be as impressive as it appears in a product demonstration (much like the marketing of water in the video).  Below are some considerations if you are purchasing and/or deploying an educational technology solution

  1. What problem does it solve?  Devices and software may be innovative and engaging, but careful consideration should be given to how they are related to your district’s vision and what specific challenges they address.
  2. How much professional development will be required?  Some products may hold great promise, but if the district cannot commit the time and resources for adequate professional development, there is little chance for widespread success.
  3. How long has the company been in business and what is its funding stream?  Many  entrepreneurs enter the educational marketplace with great ideas, but great ideas require financial backing, ongoing programming, continued development, and a demonstrated understanding of good pedagogical practices.  Are you willing to take a chance on a product that is new and from a little known entity?  The answer may be yes, particularly if it’s for a specific need, but be aware and share the inherent risks of such a decision with all stakeholders prior to moving forward.
  4. How does this resource fit in with existing technologies in the district?  Even the best technologies can be underutilized if they do not fit in with a district’s existing technologies.  A stand alone software as a Service (SaaS) application is difficult to manage and can quickly become a challenge to support if there is no process for integrating it with the usernames and passwords used in other systems.  Ideally, a student should have one log-in that provides access to all online resources or which “hands off” permission to another system with little or no user intervention.
  5. What data can teachers take out of the system?  Many online systems provide teachers the opportunity to use formative assessments with their students.  Take a look at the quality and structure of the questions and projects to ensure they measure what’s valuable to your district’s goals.
  6. How will the district measure success?   After a solution is selected and deployed, how will the district determine its success and what are the timelines for such reviews?

Though it’s important to provide teachers with adequate autonomy to use emerging technologies to engage their students, it’s important that a district’s tools are sustainable and well aligned with the curricula and goals.  It’s easy  to be swayed by marketers who are (self) impressed with what their tools offer, but adequate research by a district can maximize the chance that what is deployed is what the district wants and needs.

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