Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Technology Purchase and Implementation

Salespeople, if they are good at their craft, can sell just about anything. In terms of technology, buyers have to be careful. In terms of public education, they need to be even more so. In public education the monies are often quite scarce and the time before the next technology purchase can be long. So what is a district to do to ensure that a technology purchase meets the needs of its teachers and students into the long term and is implemented with success. Here is what I would suggest.

First of all, what the technology is to be used for needs to be identified. The technology needs to be able to do things in a classroom that were not possible without the technology or enhance what is already being done in the classroom. There is no point in spending monies to maintain the status quo. From this initial planning, some general goals of what the potential technology purchase should do can be established.

From here the request for potential vendors to apply can be made. It is during this application process that those technologies that only loosely fit the goals can be weeded out. I think that one has to be careful here not to exclude technologies at this stage because of specific hardware/ software specifications. The reason being is simple... all technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. What a technology may lack in apparent hardware specs may be more than made up for in its accompanying software. Or, software may not have all the bells and whistles, but its ease of use may be phenominal. That is the reason why technology evaluations be made on goals and not on specs.

With a list of potential products/technologies chosen the next step is to have each company paired with a teacher or teachers. The company wishing to be awarded the purchase would be responsible for training the teachers who will be evaluating their product/technology. True evaluation of any technology can only be made when proficiency is attained in that technology. And proficiency can only be gained with use... for a teacher that means classroom/student use. I never recommend the purchase of any technology, whether personally or professionally, unless I use it and can use it well.

After an evaluation period then comes time to bring all the teachers together and have them collaborate and each present the technology they have used and why they would recommend its purchase. Then those that ultimately make the decision on the purchase have seen how teachers, not salespeople, would use the technologies. The discussions can then really center around pedagogy and ease of use for teachers... from teachers.

Anyone who sells technology for a living can see the benefit for this type of purchase model. The company, after training the teacher, has created a spokesperson in that area for their technology and I would suspect a person that, after the evaluation is over, will most likely buy the technology they were using and trained in, regardless of what the district purchases. There is a sale and potential for future sales.

By choosing this type of purchase model the district, at the end of the evaluation process, has one of its own that is trained in the technology. That person or people can provide educators they would provide teacher pd or in-servicing to, concrete examples of how the technology can be integrated into the classroom or teaching. The implementation into the district started with the beginning of the evaluation and not upon purchase.

There are two drawbacks to this model. 1) It would probably take a few months from start to finish. But major purchases should not be rushed.
2) The tendering process where the lowest bidder wins cannot be applied to this model. Cheaper may mean lower quality and functionality.

Ultimately the decision should rest with those that will be using the technology, teachers and students. Technology integration will always be successful in education when those two groups are involved.

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