“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.” – Nancy Kassebaum
Technology and EdTech are buzzwords that have schools scrambling to update and upgrade their classrooms. Parents being urged to invest in tablets and laptops are becoming standard at the front of the classroom. But is all this technology purchase really a good thing, and are the purchasing decisions made in this way having the desired results?
What happens when technology is not implemented properly, and when all the effort and money goes to waste?
Experience has demonstrated over and over that glitzy technology is initially very appealing and accompanied by exaggerated claims of being a “dragon slayer” or a solution to all that ails the educational system; but if it cannot be supported and maintained, it becomes a sophisticated paper weight.
Let’s have a look at some possible financial pitfalls:
The primary problem, as with any school purchasing decision, is lack of planning. Purchasing tech products is an uniquely complicated process, as there are so many factors to consider before making a decision.
We asked Riaan van der Bergh, Education Technology Manager at FEDSAS on some practical tips and questions around financial pitfalls and buying:
- Is the product part of my bigger plan or is it this month’s special?
If you don’t have a good plan of your own, someone else will quickly convince you of their plan for you. Many schools fall into the trap of buying what is on special rather than what is the next step in their plan.
- Consider total cost of ownership
The purchase price of a device is not the final cash outlay you will make. Consider carefully the impact of maintenance, upgrades, user training and even hidden implementation costs
- Choose a supplier with a track record and a proven product
Choice of a reputable supplier is key – beware of box droppers. A product with proven track record and reputable service provider is essential.
- Quality vs price (Cost vs value for money)
Consider the quality of products and the related price before choosing the cheapest. Few buyers will acquire medical aid or a motor car based on price only. Rather pay more, after saving, for the right product that will serve you in the long run. Remember 100% of the money towards a bad purchase decision is lost. To correct that mistake results in paying twice for one solution.
- Domestic use is not institutional/industrial use
Household items are not in all cases suited for the application and utilisation of bigger institutions. Consider the volume and traffic of the extended use of the devices or equipment.
- Rental vs ownership
It is often frowned upon to rent or lease equipment yet most people do it regularly with their costly cell phones. There is a case for considering rental or lease options given your unique situation.
Tech can be expensive to maintain and upgrade, so it pays to research your particular products properly, and make sure that you have a reliable partner who can assist with implementation and maintenance. Lack of planning can mean that a school gets stuck with tech products that are outdated or broken, without the resources to fix them.
The implementation process is also important, and schools should make certain that parents are fully informed, have bought into the process, and do not have unreasonable expectations of what tech can offer. An informal parent poll revealed that many parents feel that tablet implementation at primary school levels seems to be a waste of money.
Tablets simply act as glorified – and expensive – PDF readers, with no extra or interactive material added. Many children also still receive the old, paper textbooks as well as tablets, which makes use of electronic textbooks optional and unnecessary. Schools should avoid these negative outcomes by training educators and equipping them with the tools needed to utilise tech properly.
Riaan also gave us some practical tips on implementing:
- Plan first – buy later
Ensure your plan includes the provision of adequate infrastructure to accommodate the systems that will run on it. The foundation is invisible but no house can stand without it.
- Pilot phase
Run a pilot before rolling out at scale.
- Project management / Consultation
A champion (in-house/ or sub-contractor) is key in ensuring success. Think of an architect in a building project. He doesn’t lay one brick but is critical to the process.
Assess the skill level of users and ensure that you budget for training (time and cost) for the users. User adoption of any new system (hardware of software) is key to the success of your project.
In conclusion, tech implementation in schools is a new frontier, and we are the generation that is dealing with the transition between the old and the new . Many schools are still using traditional methods of teaching and testing, which do not always translate well in a higher tech environment, and there is discordance between content being presented and the new tech medium.
There will be a period of growth and transition in implementing a tech roll-out, but if planned and executed properly, these can be kept to a minimum and schools can prevent wasted funds.
Written by: Esther Vd Vyver