Part 1: The Top 10 Things to Consider when Choosing Technology for Schools

As mentioned in our Introduction, this post will describe the first few things to consider when choosing technology for your school. This is designed to help you as a school administrator, CFO, board member, PTA member, or other influencer across all kids of K-12 institutions, from small private schools to charter schools to large independent school districts.

So without further ado…here are the first three items to consider:

1. Manageability. The first thing to consider is how you’re going to focus kids on learning. Something happens in kids’ brains when they sit down in front of a computer screen. That monitor/screen/LCD can be enticing, exciting, distracting, and when presented with options, we all know, they usually click on the one thing that we don’t want them to. And when it comes to access to access online videos…this is fraught with risk.

So, how do you minimize the distractions? How do you as a technology administrator keep kids focused?

We, and based on the data reported by EducationWeek, the industry at large, have become especially enamored with Chromebooks and the ChromeBook Management Console. In addition to being the most affordable solution on the market, Chromebooks put all the control into the hands of administrators and teachers.

In essence, Chromebooks allow for a “walled garden” of activity, where administrators can “whitelist” sites for students to visit, can push out assignments to some or all students, can provide links to approved videos…this allows administrators to really control what happens in their environment. If a student somehow “gets out” of their controlled zone, administrators can see everything that happens and can discipline from it. When the school purchases or leases the equipment, because it’s the school’s responsibility, there are no privacy issues for managing this – it’s just like using your computer at work for personal things. If it’s against company policy, you can’t use it that way.

(Disclosure: UpgradeUSA is a Google for Education partner. But we work with every platform because we want to help balance our ability to deliver what customers want and providing guidance when they don’t know).

2.  Compatibility.  After some deliberation, you might be leaning towards a technology platform. But before making a final decision, it’s really important to ensure that whatever you pick is going to work well across your school’s (or district’s) entire environment. Here are some things to check for:

Office productivity suites. Most of us are very well versed in Microsoft Office . However, there are now cloud-based versions of Office, and Google versions of the productivity suite that we all know so well. Sometimes these non-Microsoft solutions are “good enough” – and accessing the online Microsoft tools from browsers such as Chrome and Firefox can work just fine.

Office workers. When choosing technology, don’t just consider what the students are using, but look at what the office is using as well. Make sure you’re not alienating the office staff! Focus on finding a solution or set of solutions that will work for everyone.

Instructional Materials. If you’re using e-textbooks or other electronic curricula, you’ll definitely want to make sure the hardware/platform solution you pick is tested and vetted with the tools that your teachers will be using every day.

Devices to smart boards.  If you’re using other technology devices in the classroom, you want to make sure that they can talk to each other. For instance, if you’re thinking about using Smart Boards, and the boards don’t work with certain operating systems, you’ll have a very expensive marker-based whiteboard in the classroom. Don’t make this mistake!

3. Durability. Using tablets in the classroom is a topic that people get really passionate about. We have serious reservations about using tablets in the classroom, regardless of brand, and it’s due to one reason: durability. Tablets are great tools, but when they hit the floor, screens (big surprise) tend to crack. “But,” the principal says, “we can get cases for them.” Yes, and you can key Bluetooth keyboards too, and pretty soon you’ve Frankensteined yourself into a laptop. Professional grade laptops are best:

  1. They have protection around every part of the screen
  2. The keyboard is integrated, and many models have spill-proof keyboards
  3. They are drop-tested
  4. They can be repurposed around your school or district.

Younger students, really all students, can be clumsy. Why not put something really durable in their hands, as long as it accomplishes all of your other goals?

More on our list next time – your comments and thoughts are welcome!