How to find the right edtech tools for public schools

Key points:

Do public schools have the means to adopt the latest edtech for modern teaching? After all, the days of chalkboards and lightbulb-powered screen projectors are long gone. And with the popularity of smartphones and tablets, children are learning to interact with digital devices at younger ages.

Public schools must keep up with the modern times. This means investing in edtech to prepare kids for the real world.

The challenges of public school funding

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a windfall of educational relief funds to public school systems across America. With schools shut down and students shuttered in their homes, the government knew it would have to upgrade every school’s online capabilities.

This included upgrading the country’s network infrastructure to improve access to the internet in schools. It also meant releasing funds to provide schoolchildren with laptops or smartphones to use during online classes. In fact, over a three-year period, the United States government released a total of $190 billion. This money went to support virtual learning and assist in the reopening of schools and tutoring programs.

Unfortunately, the last batch of funding, worth $122 billion, will end in September 2024. Public school systems that have yet to upgrade their edtech devices will need to do so quickly. But the process of acquiring thousands of learning devices through government procurement standards can take some time.

The pandemic relief funds are a once-in-a-lifetime allocation. With limited (and maybe even shrinking) budgets, schools need to go for effective, engaging edtech tools that can last a long time. The devices should also provide a decent return on investment (ROI).

Finding cost-effective edtech tools

It’s tempting for schools to choose cutting-edge technology. But administrators should practice some restraint when looking at the latest gadgets. Instead, schools should assess their technology and determine which devices are most in need of modern upgrades.

Which benefits should you look for?

Usability is the biggest factor to consider when deciding on an edtech investment. Cost and ease of use won’t matter much if students and instructors won’t be bothered to learn how to use a device.

Reliability is another factor worth mentioning. If an edtech device can perform multiple functions satisfactorily, it’s definitely a worthy investment. With reliable equipment, you spend less time getting the devices to work and more time on learning.

Finally, manageability is a must-have feature as well. Digital devices need regular updates for the firmware, operating system, and individual apps. When investing in edtech devices, make sure they can easily connect to a device manager that manages, maintains, and secures all connected units.

The Chromebook issue

Issuing laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets to every student in the district might be an obvious option. Take Chromebooks, for example. Priced below $200, these streamlined laptops offer a low-cost way to keep students online during remote classes. But three years later, many districts are now reporting Chromebook churn.

Handheld devices are notoriously prone to damage from improper handling or transport, and Chromebooks are no exception. Unfortunately, these devices are harder to repair than regular (but more expensive) laptops. In many cases, spare parts like replacement keyboards cost nearly half the price of a brand-new Chromebook.

As a result, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund concluded that low-cost edtech tools aren’t the most practical or cost-effective option. Because of their shorter-than-expected lifespans and difficulty in repairs, Chromebooks are actually more expensive and less reliable than costlier devices.

Which edtech tools should public schools prioritize?

With a shrinking education budget looming, school administrators should upgrade the classroom before branching out to individual students. A good place to start is to retire chalkboards, dry-erase boards, projectors, and video players in favor of more modern solutions. The good news for school administrators is that replacing these three old-school devices only requires investing in a single device: an interactive whiteboard.

Modern whiteboards are powerful computers that operate via touchscreen technology. They can effectively serve three different roles: writing instrument, video output display, and multimedia player. What’s more, these tools offer the most potential as they perform well in online, in-person, or hybrid environments.

In addition, the usability and flexibility of digital whiteboards let teachers spend more time instructing and interacting with students instead of continuously shuttling between devices. With this single device, instructors can present a slideshow, hold interactive team contests, give a test, and play immersive videos.

Interactive whiteboards also encourage active learning. Students will find it more fun and engaging to participate in their lessons. For instance, using an interactive whiteboard, students can explore problems and come up with solutions individually or with a team.

Managing edtech devices

In a school system with limited funding, getting cost-effective smart devices should be the target. Acquiring reliable, utilitarian, and highly manageable edtech devices is a good way to spend limited resources intended to improve learning.

Of course, it’s just as important to invest in a reliable device management platform. With dozens of whiteboards and other edtech devices onsite, administrators need an efficient way to ensure they all work as intended. Look for a solution that enables you to install updates on a single device, a group of them, or the entire fleet remotely. The most effective management system will also let you track device locations at all times and control user access.

As long as the school’s interactive whiteboard receives the proper maintenance, updates, and management, expect this worthwhile investment to last a long time. Even better, school administrators will find these edtech devices give a healthy ROI sooner rather than later.

Schools running out of time to make worthy edtech investments should consider investing in interactive whiteboards for each classroom in their districts. These devices are reliable and easy to use and manage. Plus, most school kids find whiteboards more engaging than other non-digital options.

When considering edtech tools for your limited funds, be sure to save some room in your budget for a reliable device manager. This additional investment can pay off big in the long run, as your tech tools become easier to manage, maintain, and secure.

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