Classroom Tech: Five Strategies for Smarter Investments
FROM OUR PARTNERS AT HITATCHI:
Investing in classroom tech can be a potential minefield. You’re buying something that has the ability to transform your students’ learning — yet with technology rapidly evolving, and new equipment on the market every day, establishing the ideal way to use your budget can be daunting.
This article explores five useful tips to help you spend your money more effectively, helping you gain more confidence when purchasing new technology for the classroom.
1. Define the purpose
Although this sounds intuitive, money is consistently wasted by authorities buying new tech that will seldom be switched on. Always start with the ‘why’ behind your purchase. Ask some questions:
• What is your objective?
• What is it exactly that you want to achieve with this new technology?
• How is this technology going to complement your existing methods?
When you are focused on how the technology will perform in the classroom, it becomes a far simpler process to research equipment that potentially fulfils these needs. By avoiding sales people and advertising you can begin to envision the way technology enhances learning, rather than simply opting for the latest technology.
2. Training is key
Once you have invested in a new item of technology, it is vital that staff are trained on how to use all its features and capabilities, alongside troubleshooting where necessary.
If a teacher is not confident enough to operate equipment then they are unlikely to use it. Imagine a situation where they are struggling to connect equipment to a computer or the internet. Such difficulties will not only impact on the lesson time, but will also dramatically reduce their ability to engage students.
Most suppliers provide support in the form of online video content, product manuals and user guides. Internal training with a staff expert can also help ensure that all staff are fully competent in using this equipment and maximising its effectiveness in the classroom environment.
3. Invest in robust, future-proof technology
The smart money always invests in technology that has a long life-span. If the items will be moved from room to room, seek out equipment that has hard-wearing and rugged facets to its construction, helping it survive the daily knocks and movements necessary for operation within the educational environment. Equally beneficial will be research into the lifespan of the firmware and software, which should be updatable to cope with new operating systems.
It is not always possible to gauge whether an item has longevity, but in general established brands and models will be subject to the continual improvements, patches and upgrades necessary to cope with the evolving landscape of tech products. Many models will also come with bundled software — our Interactive Projectors, for example, come with Starboard:
4. Check warranties and guarantees
Always check the manufacturer’s warranty on any new equipment you are buying. Even if you are confident of the duration of the cover, it is worth reading the fine print.
Purchasing longer warranties is often a sound investment. Whilst many of the top manufacturers provide the longest arrangements on new equipment, such as Hitachi’s 3 year warranty on projectors & Interactive Panels, others will offer to sell you extended care packs at the time of purchase.
5. Review before you replace
Thinking of replacing your technology? It is vital you review its performance, usability and function with the staff members and teachers who operate it as part of their lessons. Survey these individuals and the students on how their learning experiences have been aiding and supported by this technology.
Questions to ask include:
• What were the pain points of using this technology?
• How was it useful and beneficial to learning?
• Do you have any suggestions for alternatives?
• How often was it used?
• Is it reliable when used?
• Is a lack of knowledge holding staff back from using the item?
Critical feedback is perhaps the most useful information when it comes to guiding a future buying decision. Deficiencies will highlight desirable features. Reliability issues will force you to perform better research into independent feedback. And students’ views are sometimes the most useful as these allow you to understand whether or not the technology performs as expected.
Investing in new technology is simple and straightforward — just start with functionality and how you plan to use the technology. Move on to researching different types of equipment and take the time to absorb third party reviews. Check warranties, and when you have purchased the new equipment, train the whole team on its operation.