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Five tips to find the right ed-tech partner for your school district

When choosing ed-tech partners for your district, you must look beyond the cost, features and functionality of the products you choose

ed-tech-school-districtIt’s happened – your school is transitioning from traditional print-based instruction to digital curriculum. You have the support and perhaps even the funds to support the transformation to a technology-enhanced learning environment, but with thousands of products, vendors and resources available how do you choose what will work for your district?

While educators are faced with redefining and redesigning their curriculum to create engaging student-centered learning environments, administrators also acknowledge the benefits of a digital transformation, as 49 percent believe leveraging technology in the classroom is a key to student success (Speak Up 2012). Districts now have the added task of evaluating and selecting appropriate resources and products for their schools.

Before making any purchasing decisions, it’s critical to establish a process for engaging education technology partners that will help you realize your vision for a 21st century learning experience for your students and teachers. While choosing your ed-tech partner may seem like a daunting task, it can be done with ease and efficiency if handled properly.

Here are five critical points every district should consider when choosing an ed-tech partner.

(Next page: Establishing a clear vision for your district)

1. Create a clear vision for your transformation

Before choosing a partner, create a clear and compelling vision for your transformation. Evaluate the needs of your district to establish an ed-tech strategy that supports your student population. Consider Baldwin County Public Schools in Alabama. With 30,000 students, this district has implemented an ambitious, multifaceted “Digital Renaissance” initiative aimed at creating engaging, student-centered classrooms that use digital tools to support the mastery of Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards.

Whether you have an established plan like Baldwin County, or are still defining your ed-tech strategy, it is important to seek a reliable partner to help create your vision and goals. A partner should provide concrete solutions that save time and money while helping accomplish your key objectives. An experienced partner will not only understand and reinforce the educational purpose of your transformation, but also will play an important role in helping educators plan for the shifts in pedagogy required with the move to digital learning.

2. Develop a plan that supports your vision and curricular objectives

Once you have a vision for your transition, create a technology and infrastructure plan that supports your curricular objectives. It is important to define the working systems that need to be in place to accomplish your goals, such as technology devices, acceptable use policies and device management systems.

You may need a design that supports a 1:1 learning environment, or be able to provide sufficient bandwidth for students to conduct research, stream video and access a variety of content tools available over the internet. In a BYOD technology environment, firewalls, safety and security are likely at the forefront of your district’s focus. A successful ed-tech partner will provide a solution that supports your vision while offering great service and support.

3. Search for partners that can address multiple challenges

Whether you are preparing for Common Core State Standards, or addressing digital citizenship skills, select an ed-tech partner that can help you address more than one challenge at a time. The many digital demands you face may require solutions that can balance multiple challenges of today’s teaching and learning environment. Identifying a partner that provides flexible digital content aligned to the Common Core State Standards, as well as professional learning experiences ensure that your teachers, regardless of teaching style and readiness, are prepared to make meaningful use of technology.

A good technology partner should also be able to work within the intricacies of school systems while providing quality customer support to teachers and students. Your partner should model professional learning strategies that can be replicated when teachers implement the solution in their own classrooms.

4. Identify partners that can assist with current and long-term needs

As you select your ed-tech partner, identify which ones will address current needs and enable sustainability within your system. Partner with a company that can provide ongoing solutions to meet your district’s needs as your technology program evolves. Your need for applications and professional learning at the beginning of your digital transformation may evolve as your students and teachers become more experienced with new technology, digital content and methods of instruction.

5. Choose a partner with proven results

It is better to select products, vendors and partners with a history of successful results. In addition, a good partner should support your district beyond the sale, as they have a clear plan and ongoing commitment to monitor and evaluate results. They will also be able to adjust implementation and provide recommendations to address unmet needs throughout the life of the partnership.

Also consider their reputation for service and support, such as success stories with similar size districts and their track record with repair and support costs. Don’t hesitate to ask a partner to back up their statements with facts. Remember you are seeking a long-term partner; therefore, this information is critical throughout your decision-making process.

When choosing appropriate ed-tech partners for your district, you must look beyond the cost, features and functionality of the products you choose. When it comes to technology, true partners will provide you with sustainable solutions that can evolve at the same pace and with the same frequency as your district’s policies, programming, budgets and population. In today’s constantly changing educational landscape remember to think big, think broad and think long-term.

Steve Nordmark is an innovative leader in K12 ed-tech with over 20 years of experience in corporate consulting and educational solution research, design and development. His passion centers on delivering personalized and self-guided learning environments for all. As the chief academic officer of Knovation, Nordmark focuses on the future vision of educational technology to support personalized learning. 

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