For the promise of learning technology to truly become reality for students and teachers, classrooms have to be equipped with the tools that fit their needs.
There are a lot of factors to finding the right match. One of the most important, we’ve found, is also one of the most overlooked – procurement. If it’s not your day job, it probably sounds pretty boring. It makes you think of bureaucracy and rules and everything that gets in the way of innovation.
But procurement matters. It’s the process for discovering, evaluating, and acquiring classroom tools and resources, and it’s key to how schools create teaching and learning environments, how developers decide on features and product improvements, and ultimately how innovations with impact are able to spread.
“Improving Ed-Tech Purchasing” is a new report from Digital Promise and the Education Industry Association that identifies the key obstacles and potential solutions for the procurement of K-12 personalized learning tools. The Johns Hopkins University Center for Research and Reform in Education surveyed district leaders, educators, and learning technology developers from across the country for this study, with a subset participating in in-depth interviews.
We asked both educators and providers about their experiences with purchasing practices, their pain points, and their ideas for improvement. Their answers indicate inefficiencies in the process and a disconnect between schools and providers. For example, 6 percent of providers report satisfaction with current procurement processes, compared to 68 percent of district stakeholders.
Many districts aren’t clear about their own instructional needs, how to find the desired products in the market, or how to evaluate whether a product is effective. Many providers have a hard time learning what districts are looking for and how they do business, leading these companies to spend a lot of time on selling and compliance.
“If there’s a good vendor out there doing wonderful things, it’s hard to find that vendor.” Assistant Superintendent
“[It’s] hard to identify which schools/districts are a good fit for us.” Ed-Tech Provider
But our findings also suggest solutions that can support more productive and efficient procurement processes. If we focus on the needs of districts and developers, it’s more likely that learning technology products and services will actually lead to improved student success.
Several recommendations emerged from the results of these surveys:
Improving procurement practices will help create a K-12 ed-tech market where informed school districts and innovative developers work in tandem to get the best products and services to the teachers and students that need them.
In addition to sharing these findings and recommendations, we also want to hear from you. What purchasing practices have been successful for you? What are your biggest challenges?
Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter by using the hashtag #EdTechMarket.
Read more about the study in Education Week.