K-12 schools spend billions on edtech tools, but often, many of the tools go unused or aren’t evaluated for effectiveness. So how can district technology teams ensure an effective evaluation and purchasing process for digital content and new software?
The Pickerington Local School District in Ohio has done just that, with a carefully-honed process that ensures communication and transparency between its curriculum and technology departments, as well as with teachers.
“The big problem is that we spend a lot of money on edtech,” said Brian Seymour, PLSD’s director of instructional technology, during an ISTELive 21 session. “Now, with everything that happened with COVID, so much more money was invested into edtech so much more quickly than in the past, because we had to adapt. The problem is that we’re spending a lot of money, and are we really doing it in a wise way?”
For the past four years, PLSD has had a system in place to ensure it is making good choices with its digital content purchases. That system focuses on the ability to evaluate if purchases are making a difference in the classroom, because while a digital resource may be shiny and new, that doesn’t mean it is truly having an impact.
A bad experience is a big part of what led PLSD to implement its purchasing system. “We got burnt really, really bad. It was a $50,000 program. It didn’t work on our Chromebooks, it didn’t work on our network, and it was just a horrible experience because we didn’t ask the right questions,” Seymour said. “We asked the questions of the salespeople that should have been asked of a technical person. We asked educational questions of a salesperson that we should have asked of an education person.”
This experience moved the district to create a process to make sure the digital content it buys will really and truly work with its network and its devices.
PLSD spends about $1.5 million per year on technology programs, and “we want to make sure that what we’re doing is really well-invested,” Seymour said.