Category: Radical Ideas.

Recently we saw a great whitepaper from Curriculum Associates citing 14 points that administrators should evaluate in making an EdTech purchase for their school or district. The use of technology in schools across the country has increased tremendously over the past 5 years. Since there are so many options from assessment to grading and behavioral management tools it can be difficult to determine which tools will actually make a valuable impact on your school. With expanded emphasis on alignment Common Core Standards in many states schools need to make choices on technology applications that will show their value over the long term.

edtech purchases

Here are 14 steps to making valuable EdTech purchases:

 

1) Take Inventory

-Know what tools you currently use, and how effective they are for you and your staff.

-Think about how often the tools are being used.

-Think about who is using these tools, why they are being used, and if they are being used correctly.

-Are the tools used in your school or district properly supported?

2) Determine your educational priorities

-What are you looking for a product to do?

-Include all teachers and other staff members in the process.

-Figure out what processes are of the most need first.

3) Don’t customize (too much)

-Most schools need products which similar functionality (i.e. Common Core transition, saving staff time, streamlining communication).

-Be very specific about your needs and wants.

4) Use collaborative buying if the option is available

-Research your connections within your district, or school associations to learn how your co-op process works.

-Consider putting out an RFP.

5) Make apples-to-apples comparisons

-What are the results from this product in other schools or districts?

-What is the vendor’s renewal rate as a % of sales?

6) Understand data integration capabilities

-Only work with vendors that integrate with other service providers you currently have to lessen the workload for your staff.

-Data integration can help your teachers greatly in getting real-time feedback and insights. Make sure that teachers are involved in the process at this level.

7) Consider piloting the program

-Look to evaluate specific goals from the pilot.

-Make sure you have at least 1 staff member invested in the process.

-Choose a vendor who may do fewer pilots, but has great feedback or recommendations on customer service from past users.

8) Watch company support services closely

-How are support issues resolved? Does the company use a ticket system? How can you escalate key user issues?

-Who will be the main point of contact for your account? How responsive are they?

-Are you able to contact the CEO if you need immediate help?

9) Understand total cost of ownership

-Are their additional (hidden) fees for the use of this product or service?

-Make sure you fully understand the pricing model

10) Pricing and implementation guarantees

-Set a policy for vendors that your  school or district required either a money-back guarantee or price assurance.

-Ask vendors to certify the authenticity of price quotes that are given in the evaluation process.

11) Look for other ways to save

-Ask the vendor if they would come to the school or district to run PD over a few days.

-Assess the difference in price between per pupil vs. flat fee licenses.

12) Ask for references or recommendations

-Reach out to other similar size schools or districts that use the product.

-When speaking with reference spend time discussing customer service, account management and what they may know about the product roadmap.

13) Know what implementation objectives are

-Know how this product can help you in the short term, and plan for deeper integrations in the future.

-Make sure the program can work for everyone who needs it to.

14) It’s a journey, not a race

-Keep in mind that know product you purchase will be perfect day one.

-Your needs will continue to evolve so make sure that the product is helping to push your mission and vision forward.

We would like to know what other points in the process of buying new technologies may have been missed. We value the feedback of our readers and want to continue to find great content to share, Thanks for reading.

Happy Friday Educators!

We found a really cool blog post from Vicki Davis at The Cool Cat Teacher. In the post, Vicki writes about strategies that educators can use to alter forces that may pull education in the wrong direction.

Here are 9 ways educators can tug education back into the right direction:

1) Take time to listen and learn every week
2) Ensure professional development includes the pedagogies teachers should use
3) Teachers and students need a voice
4) Share your learning and inspire others
5) Be fair because you care
6) When you get a spotlight, grab a mirror
7) Be gracious, but keep perspective
8) Stop the flattery, no rock stars
9) Level up every day

educator quote Nelson Mandela

We really enjoy Vicki’s posts, and suggest that you follow her @coolcatteacher on Twitter.

Hope you had a great week!

 

We are getting very close to the end of the school year is most regions across the country. eSchoolNews recently published an article about many of the big problems in education, and how they can be solved. We hear about many of these same issues every day, so we wanted to share this list and would like feedback and comments about other issues you may see in education, and how you think they would best be solved.

Here are 7 major problems and solutions in education today:

 

1) There are a handful of obstacles that prevent a more competency-based education system.

  • Create and use available educational resources on competency-based learning. These resources might be best practices, rubrics, tools, or research.

2) Those in potential leadership roles, such as teachers and librarians, aren’t always empowered to help effect change.

  • Create a professional development framework that would target and facilitate leadership discussions.

3) Communities are resistant to change, including technology-based change.

  • Identify new and engaging ways to share cutting-edge and tech-savvy best practices with school and district stakeholders; as well ascommunity members.

4) Education budgets aren’t flexible enough to support the cost, sustainability, or scalability of innovations.

5) Professional development is stale and outdated.

  • Identify best practices from other industries and learn more about adult learning.

6) School districts do not have evidence-based processes to evaluate, select, and monitor digital content inclusive of aligned formative assessments.

  • Create a marketplace to help educators identify, evaluate and own digital content.

7) Current instructional methods leave students less engaged and less inclined to take ownership of their learning.

 

Check out eSchoolNews for more solutions and great content on how to improve our education system.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

In honoring Teacher Appreciation Week, the fine folks at Knewton created an infographic describing what it takes to be a teacher. This gives an interesting view on the amount of time teachers invest in their profession each year, and what teachers spend that time on. Working with teachers and administrators across the country, we understand how difficult and time consuming the role of a teacher can be.

The infographic shows that teachers in the United States work less instructional days than their peers, but spend more time working inside and outside of the classroom than teachers in Japan, England, Brazil and South Korea. Our teachers also spend 30% of their time each week grading papers and carrying out administrative tasks.

Growing classes sizes and the diversity of student needs are cited as reasons why teachers are spending more time at work. Teachers around the world are working an average of 55 hours per week; which means that they likely spend more time on work than any other weekly task except for sleep (if they are lucky).

How do you think we can help teachers use their time more efficiently and focus more on their students? Please feel free to comment with your insights or stories.

We salute all of the educators who invest in the future leaders of our country. To learn more about how Always Prepped can help you save time go to: http://www.alwaysprepped.com

What does it take to be a teacher?

This month, in anticipation of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9) and the Center for Teaching Quality’s #TeachingIs social media campaign, EdWeek invited five student bloggers to share their thoughts about what #TeachingIs.

Click the links below to read student insights:

 

Blog-Teaching-Ahead

STUDENT VOICES: WHAT TEACHERS REALLY DO

 

Our Teachers Deserve More Respect (By: Fatima Khan & Muniba Siddiqui)

Teachers: The Only Role Models Many Students Will Ever Know (By: Jackson Barnett)

“Most of my teachers wanted to send me to the principal’s office. But my fourth-grade teacher once put her arms around me and said, ‘You sure write well.’ And I’ve had good penmanship until this day. She was the only one who ever said anything nice to me. That’s the kind of motivation that students need.”

-Andrew Young

Check out this cool video posted on Education Week about an Algebra teacher in Philadelphia and an innovative paradigm shift in teaching at a nationally acclaimed Science Leadership Academy:

 

Happy Monday!

A few months ago we posted a great article on the 7 habits of Highly Effective teachers using technology. Recently we saw a similar post on 7 habits of effective tech-leading principals which has awesome insights on some of the most innovative principals in the country.

Patrick Larkin, principal of Burlington High School in Burlington, MA, started a 1-to-1 iPad initiative in the fall of 2012. Read more at http://thejournal.com/Articles/2012/06/07/7-habits-of-highly-effective-tech-leading-principals.aspx?Page=1#VKWwblMPOSRPrPbY.99

T.H.E. Journal recently surveyed principals from across the country to identify the attributes they think a principal who wants to be an effective technology leader should demonstrate.

Read more at http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/06/07/7-habits-of-highly-effective-tech-leading-principals.aspx#rb66qleMzzkY6uVZ.99

Also, sign-up for our Always Prepped Newsletter to enter for a chance to win an iPad Mini! Contest ends April 30, 2014.

Kerri Schweibert – Guest Blogger

I don’t have a Smart Phone, I don’t have cable, and I took the leap into 2011 last year by finally signing up for online banking. So I’m not the go-to girl to lead a technological revolution. Of course I host online discussions, have class websites on Moodle, and utilize a SMART Board, but I’ve realized that I’m hesitant to blindly follow in the direction technology seems to be baiting us (no carrot required). As an English teacher and lover of books, I cannot fathom a world where Kindles have become ubiquitous and books extinct. And when people ask me why I’m so opposed to digital texts, the Romantic in me can’t come up with a more concrete explanation than, “There’s just something about holding a book!”

I recently came across an article that, for the first time in a long time, opened me up to the possibilities of technology in education. I’ve always believed that our children’s use of technology hampers their writing capabilities. However, according to OMG Engaging Students on Their Own Terms, “texting encourages written communication. Students are actually writing more now than any time in history.” This makes complete sense when you realize that the typical teenager sends over 3,000 text messages per month. Okay true, but texting will be the death of real writing. In response to this growing sentiment, the article explains that Socrates believed “writing was going to be the death of thinking and debate,” and “fifteenth-century educators believed that the printing press and wide availability of books would be the death of scholarly writing.”

In Shakespeare’s words, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Having students summarize an article, or state an opinion, or forge a question in a tweet of 140 characters can force them to stop doing the tango around their point and just get there. However, at the same token, what if Shakespeare tweeted the balcony scene? The beauty and romance of his language would be lost. So what else can be at stake? What is the dowry we need to pay to the technological gods infiltrating our classrooms?

Larry D. Rosen claims that we’re all headed for iDisorders: “where you exhibit signs and symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as OCD, narcissism, addiction or even ADHD, which are manifested through your use — or overuse — of technology.” As ludicrous as it sounds, it’s true. People keep their phones next to their dinner plates, families enforce “tech breaks” at the table, someone gives you the play-by-play of their daily activities via status updates. As my dear friend Ryan once said, “Why is it I can drive for days with my gas light on but freak out when my cell battery goes below 50%?”

So what’s the apropos cliche here? “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”? Well, maybe you can just send them a friend request.

 

Kerri Schweibert received a B.A. in English Education from Stony Brook University and an M.A. in English literature from Queens College.  Born and raised in New York, Kerri spent time traveling and studying abroad before she decided to settle down in Hawai’i.  She currently lives in Honolulu, teaching English at Assets High School.

EdTech and Teacher Voice

Ben Barton, Guest Blogger

I have just returned from SXSWedu (4-7 March) where my company zondle was competing for the Launchedu prize (K12). We didn’t quite make the showdown but the experience of pitching was fantastic.

Overall the conference seemed more a ‘trade show’ rather than teaching event with groups like Pearson (Foundation) and Amplify having a big presence. Others have commented about the lack of teachers including @tomwhitby, @ewanmcintosh and @audreywaters, and this did cause me some concern (along with the obsession with ‘big data’ – what are governments going to do with it?).

I share many concerns that business and big government are driving too much of the innovation in education right now, and teachers are being left as passive consumers of whatever technology will give the right data (or return on investment).

This is why the best part of my week was visiting a small school in South Austin called Cunningham Elementary to take a class on games based learning, talk to teachers and watch an amazing assembly.

Zondle is my third start up, each of these have started bottom-up by focusing on what teachers need to deliver on requirements set to by districts or central government. By keeping our overheads low and building communities around each business, we have been able to make strong profits by targeting affordable products straight to teachers.

There are three key methods for keeping in touch with teachers and putting them at the heart of our community:

a)    Focus Groups – run 5-10 every term to test products, find out what teachers are concerned about right now and build community.

b)   Regular email/twitter contact –to keep teachers informed about our developments, and even what we are thinking about new initiatives from government etc.

c)    Visiting schools – after I sold my second business, I became a teaching assistant in a school in inner city London. The experience was invaluable, and I now try to visit a school (for a whole day) at least 2x per month to ‘walk in the shoes’ of teachers.

None of this is rocket science, but it does fly in the face of the cult of the engineer and marketing guru in many EdTech startups I see.  Of course I love amazingly put together technology and innovative approaches to the market, but if your company doesn’t begin and end with the teacher in mind then your product/service won’t get used.

 

Ben Barton is CEO of zondle (one of 6 semi-finalists in LaunchEdu at SXSWedu 2013). Zondle has over 220,000 users around the world answering 7m questions each month. Previously Ben was a co-founder at Rising Stars UK Ltd and a teaching assistant at Whitmore School, Hackney, London. He tweets @bartoneducation and re-builds a canal boat in his spare time.

Funny to say out-loud and passed in 1974, FERPA seems like a law that wouldn’t be relevant today. But, with the advent of the edtech industry, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) has never been more important.

Overview:

FERPA was created to make sure that information about students, collected by schools, was being utilized in a responsible way by setting up the following rights:

  • Parents, guardians, and students 18 or older (PG&S) can obtain and request corrections of student data
  • PG&S must sign off on the sharing of any student data with the government, other schools, or outside firms

However, Schools can share “directory” data with whomever they please. Directory data is categorized as “the student’s name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, major field of study” (5, A), among a few others.

Why it’s so Important Now:

 When reading the bullets above, one might ask, “why is the second bullet point in bold”? The section of FERPA that gives PG&S the right to be notified about data has a wide swath of exceptions. This is where the all-important discussion about edtech innovation versus personal liberty comes to the center stage.

Subsection 5, F of FERPA gives teachers and administrators the ability to share student info without permission if they feel it will improve their education.

The sharing of information is a double-edged sword for education innovation, both a vital tool to be utilized for aiding teachers on shaping the future of our world, and an area that could be manipulated and over-marketed if put into the hands of those who care more about money than our children. At Always Prepped, we believe that student data must be secure and entrusted to only those who are fighting to improve education, not manipulate it. That is why we have taken so much time and care to make sure we have the best and safest system (bank grade encryption) for our educators, students, and parents to help them monitor their information.

Whatever direction the future takes, the door is open for a great dialogue.

 

To read the actual text of FERPA: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232g