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How do teachers choose the right tech tools?

January 30, 2017

Nowadays the market holds an infinity of applications and software programs, all striving to improve teaching and learning. They can’t all be for real. Or are they? When having to choose the most beneficial educational tech tools, some teachers may feel overwhelmed or confused.

How does it all work, in order to save time and frustration caused by having to deal with an endless trial and error approach? We will explore a few scenarios.

Educate yourself first, taking it one step at a time

A teacher that is unsure about what modern technology can do only makes this kind of activity harder for himself/herself and consequently for the students. Even if you are not a tech fan, it is important to take a proactive approach and understand what the benefits might be. Just as any other subject, digital tools classify in various categories, have different purposes and functionalities.

It is highly recommendable to prepare in advance, rather than wait for various companies to reach you and push their products. All of us have at our disposal the vaster encyclopedia of all times now: the Internet. Once you have found a starting point, you may research at will any hardware or software technology, consult reviews and opinions. Even free trials are sometimes available. Nothing compares to having a first-hand experience with the object of your study.

What might the starting point be, one may ask. Well, perhaps you heard a recommendation from a fellow teacher. Alternatively, pay attention when your students accumulate knowledge from tech sources. Find out what managed to catch their interest. Or perhaps you have thought of interactive lessons for a long time, and now you have the opportunity to materialize this thought via an application or an online service. External triggers may prove less pleasant, such as a requirement to integrate technology into learning by a certain date. Nevertheless, they might also prove a good starting point. After all, necessity is the best teacher of all, as the popular wisdom mentions.

Whatever the trigger might be, firstly immerse yourself in a process of familiarization with all that technology-enabled learning represents.

Never forget about about marketing when it comes to tech tools

No, approaching technology in education does not mean you will have to market it in turn. At least, not the way professional marketers do. You might find it necessary to present your tool of choice to your students later on. Some will be reluctant to use it, and you will have to explain and convince. But for now, by paying attention to marketing we mean a totally different thing.

We are living in a marketing-dominated economy. Unfortunately, this means we can’t take nobody’s word when it comes to what we really need versus what they want us to buy. We have to educate ourselves first, and test every submitted proposal.

Therefore, when choosing the most suitable educational tools, tech-wise, we need to be very clear on what we really need them to help us with. When a program ends up in using more of our time than a simple notebook and pen would, something is not going the right way. And this is just one example.

Lay down the necessities. Lay down the digital tools that candidate for the “solver” role. Go for the best one of them, read about it. Try it if you can. Just to have an idea of the level of performance available on the market when it comes to what you need. Perhaps that product is out of the school’s price range – this means you will have to move down the list for a practical choice. Compare and realize what lacks in the more cost-friendly product. Always check availability and autonomy. Is it available for your organization? Does it work by itself, or is it in fact just a component of a suite?

In other words, do your homework. Otherwise, you will be putty in the marketers’ hands. Of course, you might be lucky enough and end up with an efficient product, marketing and all. But it is always better to know pertinent things about features, functionalities, numbers and product shortcomings.

Ed-tech high-quality floods the market

Adding to the above, online sources maintain that even without considering the risks of ending up with low-quality products, the amount of available options overwhelms education professionals. Due to the fact that this segment shows a slow adoption rate when it comes to technology, the competitors continually refine their products to make them more attractive.

Therefore, there is a question of choice between high-quality tools themselves. Furthermore, let’s not forget the free tools available as learning helpers. There are different considerations to take into account here. Can your students easily access the tool? Will it distract them from the focus of the lesson?

Thera are also resources that help you choose the right tools, such as EdSurge Product Index, Graphite or LearnTrials. These may come in really handy, especially when trying to save time on your quest. Refine your search and you may find exactly what you need.

Other online sources simply suggest some of the most appreciated tools. Pay attention to the main focus and to whether you are dealing with a sponsored post or not. Usually good articles pay attention to also recommend other good products in the background, besides the main tech product.