The past five years have witnessed a preCambrian-like explosion of thousands of edtech products, many of which are “free,” and all of which have been designed for teachers, schools and students. Teachers, particularly those with students for whom school is an achingly bad fit, became early adopters. These educators are desperate to find ways to make learning relevant and personal for their students—and they work heroic hours to see if technology helps. Many charters schools are doing the same.
District (or charter network) administrators now face the inverse of their past problem: Choices flood their schools as teachers try out new products and product marketing materials wash into their inboxes. Both the printed rules—and even the rules of thumb—around choosing technology are now upended.
When I look at edtech products, I have a couple of guidelines to separate the wheat from the chaff:
- Is there an API (application programming interface) available? Without an API it is difficult to integrate a product with our existing infrastructure, causing an increase in costs to deal with data going in or out.
- Is there import and export functionality? I don’t like my material to be siloed away into a system that I can’t then pull it back out of.
- Is the pricing available on the internet? When pricing isn’t available, what goes through my mind is that the product is too expensive, or that the company believes it is charging a higher price than what the product is worth. Yes, sales will say they have to keep the pricing secret from their competitors, but I find that line of reasoning pretty weak. In the age of the internet, nothing is secret.