EdTech Services are fundamental to modern schooling.
Schools increasingly rely on technology to accomplish their educational missions. This reliance manifests in diverse ways: from individual student Chromebooks and teacher laptops to SMART boards, projectors, bell systems, online instructional platforms, and other audiovisual equipment, technology is as ubiquitous in today’s schools as chalkboards, desks, and textbooks were in the schools of years past.
However, with this increased reliance comes new challenges, not least of which is the day-to-day management of these and other technology resources. When a student’s Chromebook stops working, a teacher can’t remember her log-in credentials, or a parent has trouble logging in to the school’s student information system, each stakeholder needs a solution quickly. To whom should they turn, and how does this individual prevent these issues from happening in the first place?
Similarly, while technology increasingly influences daily instruction, it also takes up more and more of schools’ annual budgets. How can schools continue to benefit from educational technology while also being responsible stewards of the school’s financial resources? Sourcing the best, most cost-effective technology solutions also take time, another resource in short supply for most school leaders.
Below, we outline both the manner in which educational technology has come to impact instruction, as well as the key challenges school leaders face when attempting to scale the benefits of their technology resources to impact student achievement.
From hardware to software and online instructional platforms, EdTech services impact each aspect of school operations.
EdTech services don’t just impact classroom instruction: sure, that’s where they’re the most visible and arguably the most important, but educational technology increasingly permeates every aspect of school operations.
For instance, walk into almost any school in America, and you’ll likely hear some sort of bell system signaling the end of one class period and the beginning of another. Similarly, glance at a teacher or school administrator’s desk, and you’ll likely see a phone, laptop, and maybe even an iPad, all of which support the teacher or school administrator’s work in unique ways. While most people likely think of projectors, SMART boards, and especially student laptops as the paradigmatic examples of educational technology, smaller, more discrete EdTech resources like bells and phone systems play a critical role in daily school operations, managing the physical flow of students within the school building and facilitating communication among teachers and school leadership.
These systems aren’t confined to the four walls of the school building, either. Schools often allow students to bring their school-issued devices home, where they work on any number of school-related assignments. Parents can also log in to the school’s student information system to view their student’s academic progress, attendance, and other data, while also communicating directly with their student’s teachers. In this sense, educational technology has vastly expanded the school’s impact on families’ daily lives, creating opportunities for engagement outside the confines of the regular school day.
Effective EdTech service management helps drive student achievement.
These tools also increasingly help drive student achievement, allowing teachers to “reach” otherwise disengaged populations of students through innovative technology interventions. Data and assessment systems, in particular, have been helpful for teachers who crave detailed insights into students’ academic performance, all the way down to the level of specific academic standards. For example, using a platform like Illuminate, a teacher can create and upload a quiz or test on a particular topic, administer the assessment to his class, and then evaluate student performance at the class, student, and standard levels. Armed with these insights, the teacher can immediately adjust his lesson plans for the following day, create small groups of students based on academic performance, and design interventions for students most in need of remedial assistance. By devoting his time to students who most need one-on-one attention, the teacher not only uses each minute of the school day more efficiently but also helps boost student achievement.
These platforms also create new opportunities for family engagement. By placing academic, behavioral, and attendance data into conversation with one another, teachers can craft compelling, quantitative narratives about students’ performance that one set of data alone simply couldn’t. These systems create a more holistic picture of the individual student and set the stage for productive dialogue between teachers and families regarding their student’s broader schooling experience, one that includes both academic and social-emotional data points.
For many schools, however, EdTech services can prove time-consuming and financially burdensome.
With that said, the benefits of educational technology are accompanied by significant costs in both time and resources. Daily troubleshooting, in particular, can consume excessive amounts of school leaders’ and even teachers’ time, forcing them to divert attention from instruction or long-term planning to put out technology-related fires. Common issues like forgotten passwords and sketchy wireless networks, for example, can throw a significant wrench in an otherwise effective lesson plan.
For this reason, many schools find it essential to have someone on staff devoted exclusively to technology-related issues. From top to bottom, this individual oversees all aspects of school technology, from hardware to software and online instructional platforms to daily troubleshooting, professional development, procurement, and device management. For most schools, adding these duties to an existing school administrator’s plate simply won’t do. There are simply too many verticals to manage given other competing priorities, and failing to adequately manage the school’s technology can significantly undermine instructional programming.
Instead of hiring a single, technology-focused team member, many schools choose instead to hire a managed IT provider, a firm with a full suite of technology-related services, and a team of individuals devoted to the school’s technology needs. While managed IT firms can vary in terms of service quality, they often provide schools with a more cost-effective way of managing their technology resources than hiring one or two individuals in-house.
By planning ahead, schools can maximize the impact of their technology programming.
Of course, simply placing technology resources in schools isn’t enough to create a strong educational technology program. Instead, school leaders and technology teams must constantly plan ahead to the next month, quarter, and even academic year to ensure technology resources are used effectively.
End-of-year close-out and new school year launch are two prime examples. Without an effective close-out in which student and staff devices are retrieved, inventoried, repaired, and, in the case of replacements, re-ordered, the school is unlikely to meet its technology needs at the beginning of the following year. On a smaller scale, failing to plan for the next school-wide event or student-family conference night can spell disaster. A projector bulb goes out during the principal presentation, a teacher can’t pull up a student’s latest report card on her computer, or a wireless network frustrates families’ internet access during a conference: all of these technology-related scenarios can severely undermine the school’s ability to execute successful events.
In addition to the reasons described above, the need for long-term planning is another example of why it often makes sense for schools to outsource their technology resource management. With one group of individuals squarely focused on the school’s technology needs, school leaders can sleep easier knowing their school can operate an effective technology program in both the short- and long term.
EdTech training and professional development help schools make the most of their technology resources.
Finally, taking the time to effectively train teachers and support staff on school technology is key to a successful EdTech program. Without a basic understanding of how each of the school’s technology resources works, teachers and staff won’t be able to maximize the benefits of the program’s resources, undermining attempts to improve student achievement. Returning again to data and assessment platforms, teachers who don’t take advantage of these platforms’ custom reporting features, for example, will miss out on the insights custom reporting can yield for their benefit, as well as families’. In most cases, it’s not a matter of liking or not liking a particular feature. Teachers simply don’t know these and other tools exist. Weaving technology-focused professional development into the school’s annual PD calendar can therefore yield tremendous benefits for classroom instruction and ensures schools are making the most of their often expensive technology resources.
At CTS, we help schools use EdTech services to accomplish their unique missions.
With decades of experience in the educational technology sector, our team has the technical know-how and deep understanding of the educational technology space to maximize the benefits of schools’ technology resources. We start by understanding your school’s unique mission and go from there, creating a custom technology program that helps your school boost student achievement, execute its instructional design, and ultimately create a sustainable, high-functioning educational technology program that serves the school today and in the years ahead. We also understand the fiscal realities of running a school and therefore offer transparently priced service packages that meet the needs of schools new and established, large and small. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your school accomplish its unique mission.