Editor’s Picks 2015, No. ten: The 3 trust questions to ask every ed-tech vendor

Vendors need to answer these questions when establishing trust with administrators

Ed. note: This year the editors selected ten stories we believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016 (look for No. 1 on Dec. 31). This story isn’t specific to 2015, but as schools continue to ramp up ed-tech investment, these “trust questions” are worth bearing in mind.

trust-questionsThe educational technology procurement market is enormous: $13 billion is spent annually. Just last year a historic $2 billion of investment capital was pumped into ed tech startups. As an educator, how do you know who to trust when it comes to meeting your district’s technology needs? Do you trust the established companies fighting ever harder to keep their market share? Can you trust their overpowering marketing machines? Should you trust the new, innovative, and exciting start-ups? Do they have bandwidth and capacity to keep us “online?”

These are the questions I ask as superintendent of Howard-Winneshiek Community School District in northeastern Iowa. To help answer them, I have developed three baseline questions that have been essential in building trust with vendors we work with. They have served my district well through myriad procurement cycles, including a recently launched one-to-one Apple device initiative.

Does the vendor understand our core business?
Our core business in schools is learning. You may be thinking, “Well, that’s really obvious John. And next you’ll tell me, ‘Iowa has corn, too!’” But it’s surprising how many educators and vendors forget this. Profits, commissions, and shiny features can be placed squarely ahead of learning. Does this sound harsh? Maybe, but considering it happens more frequently than anyone wants to admit, it is essential this question is asked first and not overlooked.

Whether it is an LMS, professional development provider, hardware or software, we listen to whether vendors truly focus on learning. We establish this early on in our conversations with vendors. “How will this solution positively impact my students and the teachers that support them?” we ask. Trust is built with those that do.

Next page: Don’t let vendors set the direction

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