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Buying into EdTech – what to look for and questions to ask

Education Technology can be a big expense if you want to roll it out across a whole school. We have looked in previous blogs at some of the benefits of that outlay and I am sure you can think of many more. There are not many schools who are not buying technology at all, but with budgets becoming tighter it is even more vital that not a penny is wasted. We have mostly accepted at this point that the Internet isn't going away anytime soon and students will need ICT and computing skills in their future careers and personal lives. But there is an obvious frustration if you buy into tech that ends up not being used. If buying physical items, these can be used really well to start with but then be languishing in store cupboards for years after. When buying online or subscription services you may find you spend a year trying to implement but then cancelling, resulting in dead money, if it is not used or teachers do not want to maximise its use. So how can we preempt these issues before buying into technology? We will look here at some common problems with technology roll out and how we can head them off in advance.

Training time and costs:

No matter how easy a piece of technology can be made to look in a demo, or how obvious the purpose of it is, staff will always need plenty of time to implement it and learn to be confident with it. A general rule also is that the more you want from it, the more you have to put into it. No technology will arrive and be instantly life changing (no matter what the salesperson says!) but if you are prepared to spend the time needed then it can be genuinely transformative in terms of impact to the school in one way or another. How much time and training will really depend on the product, think also about the pedagogical side if this is to be used with students. It may be an easy system or gadget to use, but staff might need a lot of time figuring out all the ways it can be used to ensure it slots into classroom use without being shoe horned in. The technology should be a tool to replicate or innovate and that takes some time. If it is a complex system you may wish to prebook INSET slots at regular intervals during the first year of rollout, then slightly less frequently in year two and so on, until you are able to rely on top up training, a buddy system or new staff training only. It may put you off buying, but hopefully it will just make sure you really give it the time and effort in order to get the most return on your investment. Essentially if something costs £3k to buy, but is never used, then that is a wasted £3k. But if you spend £3k to buy it, then £1k on training and implementation, you will get a better result and, although costs are higher, not a penny is wasted.



 No “buy-in” from staff:

It can be tempting (I know because I have been guilty of this in the past) to tell staff that you have spent a load of money and they WILL use the technology because they have to, but essentially that will just force reluctant use at best, or full on revolt at worst. (Yep, been there, done that, learnt my lesson!) Even if you can see a million reasons to use a certain piece of technology or app or system, does not mean that colleagues will even see one! Also do not underestimate the genuine fear of technology that some people have. Asking someone to teach with technology they are not comfortable with will result in some very awkward and distressing lessons, and very little benefit.

It may take time and energy but ensure you get buy-in from everyone. Not necessarily at the same time. An introductory staff meeting showing it off is great, and will get a decent number of staff engaged. Some will then go straight off and start using it. Fantastic! They may even spread that practice over time. Then you will start noticing that other people always change the subject when you mention it! These people then need some more personalised help. Go (armed with biscuits) and find out what they do, how they teach, maybe even watch a lesson or two, so that you can give them specific ideas. I.e. “hey I noticed you use PowerPoints a lot and put a lot of effort into making them really useful, why not put them online for students to access after your lessons for revision?”

This kind of personalised approach is more likely to work for them, even if they still catch on a few months after others. Technology roll out is a marathon not a sprint!


Forgetting to build the tech into start of year jobs:

With any service which requires students and/or staff to log on or access classwork, there is a requirement of some kind to rollover into the next academic year. Year 7s become Year 8s, Year 8s become Year 9s, and so on. Students may move groups, choose different subject options and new after school clubs. Teachers move Year groups too, or have new tutor groups or subject coordination responsibilities. You will also have new staff or new roles to consider. Ensure that any technology that you have spent time, money, energy, and passion implementing, has full consideration at the start of every new academic year. Check with providers about any technical behind-the-scenes set up needed to ensure students access the relevant resources for their new year group from day 1. Also add time in INSET sessions to revisit your original goals for this technology and to see where you are at on your journey and what the next steps are. New technology, along with new curriculum changes, timetable changes, building changes, etc etc, are expected at the beginning of every academic year, but don't forget to revisit previous years’ additions if you intend to carry on with them. By not mentioning them, given the pace of change in schools at national and local levels, teachers may assume you no longer prioritise that particular system or technology.


A few simple questions you can ask to help with all of this before buying are:

  • Can we afford the associated costs as well as the upfront price?
  • Have we got the human resourcing needed to keep the system and training up-to-date or can we afford to pay extra to the provider for them to do that for us? (sometimes a cheaper option by far!)
  • Will enough staff find using it has an impact (in order to justify a whole school cost), or should we buy only a few items so that they can be shared or on a rota?
  • Have we added the rollout to whole school reports such as School Improvement Plans, INSET schedules, parent communications, student assemblies and tutor time, as required?
  • Do we have a year by year plan for rolling out the service gradually for maximum impact within 1/3/5 years? What is our end goal? How will we achieve this over time?

 Technology can be very exciting for some and terrifying for others, but good, well planned rollout, alongside clear goals, is essential to ensure you take advantage of the opportunities it offers and to help every staff member to get on board. I have seen first hand how this is well worth the effort, but realising there is effort involved is the first step!

Adopting Office 365 for the classroom? Why not enable staff to use some of the summer to learn new skills? Get ready for new cloud based practices when you return in September. Maybe you've already got training booked for INSET day but want to make sure everybody knows a little before.

Read our blog: Restricted budgets and the impact on CPD training

Skooler e-learning Academy will support all of your staff with technology based CPD training for less than a days training course for 2 people. 

Let's get you started!


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