I’ve had my eye on a new iPad mini for the last couple of months. I really like the size, and the clarity seems so much better than the iPad 2 I have now. The only thing stopping me from running out to the Apple Store and picking one up today is that I know I don’t really need it (and it’s pretty expensive).
I often see schools struggling with similar issues. Many times there is money left over at the end of the year, or a certain percentage of funds set aside for technology, so schools will hit the buy button on technology they’ve been wanting.
Don’t get me wrong, having more iPads or other devices available for students (and teachers) to use is great, but when purchasing these devices it is also important to consider what comes along with them. For example, in the case of iPads, there is purchasing and installing apps, maintaining, buying accessories, training students, training teachers, and so on. All of this for a device that may not have truly been needed in the first place.
To help prevent this from happening I often talk to school leaders about the importance of doing a needs assessment before moving forward with purchasing technology. If you read last week’s post where I discussed the Haddon Matrix, this would be part of the “Pre-Event” when working towards successful implementation.
While a needs assessment may be created by a combination of administrators and technology leaders, it is important to make sure that the teachers who are expected to implement the technology on a daily basis actually take it. You can find a number of resources online to help create this assessment by doing a simple Google search. For example, I found one report based off of a needs assessment conducted by the Nevada Department of Education (scroll to the end to see the questions asked in the assessment) that did a good job of determining what technology educators currently had access to and how comfortable they felt with it.
While that is a great start for finding some questions to consider using in your assessment, I think beginning with a few higher level questions is even more beneficial. For example, start by asking what current initiatives are going on in the school or department, or what area(s) students need to improve in the most. The answers to these questions should lead into more specific questions about what technology can help to fulfill those needs.
Once the answers start to come in, be sure to have a team ready to collect and make sense of the responses. This information can then be summarized and used as a checklist when the times comes to purchase new technology. This process will need to be scaled up or down depending on the situation. For example, purchasing technology to be used by all teachers across the district will require more planning and input from end users than purchasing something for an individual classroom.
The purpose of this post is simply to get schools thinking about their current process for deciding what technology is needed. Many of you may find that there is no process. If this occurs, hopefully this post will give you some ideas on where to start. For those who already have a process in place, please share any links to resources, guides, assessments, etc… that you may have already created in the comments section below so that others can benefit!