Opinions are like navels: Everybody has one. And eSchool News wants yours.

As part of a major new initiative, eSchool News has developed the most comprehensive compendium of information available anywhere on the companies offering technology products and services to K-12 schools and districts.

As we reported in our April issue (“Free web resource helps schools evaluate tech companies,” http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=3618), our brand-new, online School Technology Buyer’s Guide is designed to make your life a little easier. It’s a tool you’ll use when you have to struggle to make your technology budget stretch to meet the increasing technology demands of contemporary education.

Knowledge is power—buying power, in this case. When you can be sure you’re weighing all your options, sending requests for proposals to all the companies that meet your specific purchasing requirements, gathering complete information on who sells what, you’ll enjoy a greater level of confidence that you’ll be able to make the best buy for your schools.

The School Technology Buyer’s Guide will bring all that right to your computer screen with a click, as they say, of that old mouse. But intelligence on what’s available in the marketplace is just the beginning.

The truly crucial ingredients are the knowledge and experience you and your peers in school management have amassed over the years. You have hard-won insights about companies, products, and services that would be invaluable to your colleagues in education technology.

Until now, school technology buyers have hit an information dead zone when looking for authentic, legitimate opinions on technology companies, products, and services. You’ve had to rely on generalized, consumer-reports-style publications, electronic warehouse web sites, trade magazines, and newspapers such as this one.

Your only access to the well-reasoned opinions of your peers probably came at trade shows and conferences where you could network with others who share responsibilities similar to yours. But how many could you really hear from?

With our online School Technology Buyer’s Guide, we’re aiming to expand your intelligence-gathering abilities by a level of magnitude. For each of the 3,500-some companies listed in the guide, we’re inviting you and the other 122,000 executive educators who read eSchool News to perform two vital services for your peers.

First, rate each company you’re familiar with. Do it by using our handy “star system.” Just answer half a dozen quick key questions on a company, and our software will assign the company a star rating—from five stars for the best to zero stars for . . . well, you know. As more and more buyers weigh in on each company, we’ll average the accumulating responses to provide school tech buyers with an increasingly clear consensus about the performance of a given company.

The star ratings will be anonymous, but only those we believe to be bona fide school technology professionals will be allowed to participate. That means you’ll need to be a registered eSchool Partner to participate. But don’t worry: Registration is a breeze. And, it’s 100-percent free.

After you’ve assigned your star ratings to all the companies you’ve had experience with, I’d urge you to take the process one step further. Add your comments and anecdotes in a special Company Commentary section.

To avoid pranks and so your peers will be able to evaluate the relevance of your experience to their situations, we’ll ask you to identify yourself when posting these commentaries. Again, only registered educators, please. (Vendors will be permitted to respond to specific issues, but only in reply to matters initially raised by educators, and then only when their rejoinders are clearly identified as vendor dialog.)

Once you and your colleagues populate the School Technology Buyer’s Guide with peer reviews of companies, products, and services, I think the field will have a powerful new tool to streamline and improve school purchasing.

eSchool News knows what it’s like to be an educator trying to do more with less. We can’t expand your budget. But we darn well can do everything we can to equip you with the news and information you need to transform education and achieve your educational goals.

After all, at eSchool News, that’s our core mission.

P.S. Why not check out our online School Technology Buyer’s Guide today? Just point your browser to http://www.eschoolnews.org/buyersguide. When you do, please take just a moment to let me know what you think of what we’ve got so far.