How To Make The Right Ed-tech Purchase—the First Time
If you’re a curriculum leader facing closures for an extended time, this can mean unnecessarily large gaps in student progress. In the rush to find ed tech to fill the gap, here are some critical questions to ask now that may keep you from having to make a new purchase later.
If you’re a curriculum leader facing closures for an extended time, this can mean unnecessarily large gaps in student progress. In the rush to find ed tech to fill the gap, districts face shortened procurement and research timelines that may lead to choosing tools that aren’t great long-term fits.
With the number of edtech tools out there, how can you be sure the ones you choose will appropriately support your staff, the needs of your district, and fuel the increase in achievement your students deserve? Districts must focus not only on basics like security, scalability, and support when selecting ed tech but also important features like flexibility, goal alignment, and price that will help you lead instruction through changing environments—such as the one we find ourselves in now, and in the future.
So, if you’re one of thousands of districts that needs to purchase soon, here are some critical questions to ask now that may keep you from having to pivot into a new purchase later.
Faced with tightening legislation in nearly every state, reading reviews and glancing at app store ratings will not be enough–though both approaches are very good starting points. Every vendor will say student data is secure and private, but the prevalence of hacker scandals proves otherwise.
A few things make a big difference. Ask potential vendors:
- Where will my software be hosted?
Cloud-service hosting should be from a trusted source like Amazon’s AWS, IBM, Micrrosoft, or Google. These services offer many of what’s called a “failover.” Failovers move traffic or work from the main system or server to standby systems (or servers). These standby systems exist to automatically take over should there be a failure. Hosting by anyone else could mean your data and their servers aren’t as protected as they should be, or more importantly, as compliant as they need to be.
At Typing.com, we use encryption in transit (TLS) to protect data from unauthorized access on AWS. AWS includes multiple failovers and we’ve engineered our own bespoke failovers for specific scenarios.
We take data protection and privacy as seriously as you do. That’s why Typing.com also maintains a conservative stance on Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to layer in an additional level of protection to user data within our products. AWS even has a pandemic staffing plan to support high traffic or bandwidth complications for extra peace of mind.
Making sure your teachers and students keep access during peak usage times is critical. While most vendors will tell you that their product always works, the best tools are also easy to implement and effective for monitoring student progress. When considering a tool, ask the following questions:
- How many students can use the software at the same time?
It’s one thing to have millions of users using different parts of the same software once a day and an entirely different thing to have millions of users all pushing the same buttons at the same time.
- How easily can you scale to include new users?
No matter how brilliant a tool seems to be, you’ll still need to add users to use it, and restrict that access accordingly. If this isn’t possible—or easy to do—you’ll have a very hard time getting people to adopt it.
Luckily, Typing.com offers full information syncing via popular Single Sign On services like Clever, Class Link, and Google for your entire district. These syncing services act as safe middlemen, seamlessly integrating your tool into your processes and SIS—with zero loss of data. What’s more, your students do not need an email for access to Typing.com and teachers maintain full control over usernames and passwords. Your important information and student progress syncs automatically, is managed at the administrative level, and is absolutely free.
Learn more about the special benefits of administrative access—and why Typing.com is the only provider that offers it for free.
Getting the support you need—when you need it—is certainly as important as what your tool can do for you, especially when you may have a lot of new users at once.
Teachers often do the heavy lifting of lesson planning or grading outside regular business hours and can’t wait hours—or days—to get the help they need. When you purchase a Typing.com Premium license (starting at only $1.14 per student), you automatically get a front-of-the-line pass whenever you have questions or require technical support. Standard support response times aren’t measured in days and you can count on Typing.com to assign a live human to help when you need it.
Goal Alignment and SAMR
As district leaders looking to improve instructional outcomes, guiding the work of the educators around you to be more effective in achieving shared standards is a huge task—made especially difficult when the focus on student learning drives every decision you make.
Don’t be distracted by features when deciding between various providers. As a district, understand what your success criteria is before engaging with ed tech companies. Share these success criteria when evaluating resources to make sure any tool you choose can actively support your goals in improving educational outcomes.
Since state standards differ and not every product is designed around a grade-specific framework, leveraging a scope and sequence can be especially helpful. As yourself:
- Will my instructors be able to meet our standards?
Teachers aren’t always sure if a product is appropriate for the age of students in their classroom, which parts are the most relevant, or the order in which they should incorporate lessons into their curriculums. For this reason, it’s important for the tool you choose to align curricular activities and content with widely-accepted standards (like Typing.com does with the Common Core) but still allow flexibility for students to work at levels appropriate to their own understanding and abilities within the same classroom implementation.
- Will my students be able to use the tool?
Just as teachers give pretests to find out what students know before they start teaching, education leaders need to figure out what types of technology students can successfully use. This helps with planning appropriate tools to meet the educational objectives you’ve set for them.
In fact, we were recently very surprised to learn about the level of comfort most young students have with technology that educators sometimes take for granted.
- How will this tool impact student achievement?
Many administrators find the SAMR model helpful as a guide for how to best implement technology. If a technology tool reframes a traditional task in a new way, the learning experience transforms.
Just like Google Docs redefines learning through collaboration, Typing.com reframes digital literacy through research-based gamification to playfully engage students. Students reimagine learning through the lens of achievement with printable certificates that they can proudly display or by pushing themselves to see their beaming names on classroom leaderboards.
Incorporating gamification techniques like these remains, of course, at the discretion of classroom leaders. We’ve found they not only create a fun and competitive experience that transforms the classroom but nurtures the intrinsic motivation that propels students to take control of their own learning.
But this is just the beginning.
What about transcending beyond established placement diagnostics to help your students reach truly exceptional achievement? When it comes to education, one size does not fit all.
Within a given classroom, students should be allowed to work at different levels so none are working at a level too easy or too hard for them. Your teachers should be able to scaffold based on their students’ learning levels or needs, assign different content, or follow a pre-designed template right away. That way, they can design curriculums to meet students at the level they are at. This flexibility allows for adjustment within the context of each of your schools or districts.
If your tool allows for flexibility, it’s critical to know:
- Can I customize the tool to map onto shared goals?
Typing.com’s scope and sequence recommendations make for a good example as they are more informative than definitive. If a teacher knows that a student’s ability is not accurately reflected, the teacher can manually adjust the student’s lesson plan based on the teacher’s understanding of the student’s ability, or based on common assessments adopted by your district. With the new Assignments feature, teachers can create their own lessons, tests, or build in their own content to tailor for each student or classroom.
- Can I track progress across all instruction?
Your curriculum plans become instantly replicable school- and district-wide through Typing.com so you can share the playbook for your most important work with teachers on the ground. Unite your district around common goals and approaches while still allowing room for differentiating instruction. And, a Typing.com premium license subscription would allow the student’s data and progress to follow the student to future classrooms so future instructors can continue the student’s trajectory.
No other typing tool offers all the functionality you need to manage the lesson structure and activity of all your teachers, classrooms, and schools—for free.
Finally, with the continued funding challenges educators face, it’s crucial to pick an instruction resource that will yield the best return on investment while supporting learning outcomes for your district at the school building level.
If you can find a tool that provides the security, scalability, and priority support with important goal alignment and flexibility, will it be prohibitively priced? In assessing value, ask yourself:
- As an educator, can you and your schools use it the way you want or will adoption become difficult?
- Does this resource provide scope and sequence that allows your teachers to jump right in and start from anywhere, no matter what their style or comfort level?
- Does this tool transform learning in a way that isn’t distracting?
- Does the tool promote engagement and guidance that supplements that of your instructors in a meaningful way?
If you can answer “yes,” you can expect your new educational resource to improve teaching and accelerate learning—giving you the power to transform your schools, teachers, and students.
Typing.com is a complete tool package for improving teaching and learning by equipping all students with the critical skills they need to succeed in today’s technology-enabled world. The best part?
All of Typing.com’s student, teacher, school, and district features and controls are FREE. You only need to purchase when you’re sure the tool is right for you. Setting up an account is quick and easy. Learn ore here.