In any given district, you’ll likely find teachers going rogue with their education technology solutions. In some instances, a teacher independently using their own technology might work well—but for software that is designed to organize and facilitate high-level initiatives, teachers run multiple risks when finding a cheap or free solution to use on their own.
At first, free software for use in education sounds like a win for schools. However, companies that offer a free version of their software to teachers with no district buy-in can quickly do more harm than good.
Without centralized budgetary or IT approval, technology directors and school administrators worry that teachers using their own free software in classrooms will lead to long-term problems. From our own experience implementing technology at the district-level, here are six reasons that districts should move towards district-wide technology initiatives.
District-wide implementations provide a support system
Teachers already have plenty on their plate without the commitment of managing the upkeep of a technology platform. When teachers try to use their own solutions, they often face the headache of tracking student data, keeping up with updates and answering student and parent questions about technology.
When districts deploy new software to all teachers, there is a leadership team and training in place to ensure the technology is working as it should. Teachers can rely on administrators to work on the nitty gritty of the technology implementation, while they can focus on integrating the new software into everyday instructional activities. Additionally, vendors rolling out to the district-level often provide virtual or onsite support for technology hiccups, whereas free software would not. A district-wide implementation ensures that administrators and teachers have technology responsibilities appropriate for their roles.
District-wide implementations guarantee each student has access to the same resources
Educators opting in to technology solutions that aren’t being used elsewhere in the district can lead to inequity issues. While some students are able to work in a learning management software system, others could miss this chance to conduct schoolwork in a digital space.
District-wide technology rollouts aim to ensure that all students have a consistent learning experience. As students progress through each year of school, the district attempts to guarantee that all have access to the same educational resources as their peers.
District-wide implementations are more robust
The old adage “you get what you pay for” applies to education technology solutions. While useful and free solutions for the classroom exist, many free and low-cost solutions only provide simple features. In a “freemium” model specifically, educators using the bare-bones version of a software often find the premium version is truly what will make an impact in their classroom.
In a district-wide implementation, teachers get access to more features and tools than they would in a lower-tier version. Another benefit of taking technology to district scale is that teachers can compare reporting and analytics on student success across the district.
District-wide implementations work with technology that’s already in place
When software is administered at the district level, technology decision-makers ensure the platform’s ability to integrate with existing solutions. For example, IT leaders would likely choose a system that works with a district’s student information system (SIS).
When teachers use technology independently, they often miss out on this sort of interoperability that both saves time and provides more meaningful reporting.
District-wide implementations promise longevity
Even if a teacher uses a free solution with little to no hiccups, there’s no promise that the solution will be free forever, or even exist in the future. When a company rethinks its pricing model in an attempt to reach profitability, educators stand the risk of losing all of the data, reports and work stored in the software they were using.
Districts can trust that nothing will change when they sign a contract with a technology vendor. These contracts provide a safety net for all staff to guarantee that nobody loses out on the technology they’re committed to.
District-wide implementations prevent legal mishaps
When IT doesn’t have complete control over the technology that teachers are using, concerns over data privacy and security can come up. Without administrator approval of software being used in the classroom, districts can’t be sure that teachers are adhering to policies regarding student information.
Administrators can better manage legal concerns connected with digital storage and sharing of information when they take the reins of classroom technology. Teachers shouldn’t be expected to shoulder the responsibility of managing such critical information.
All in all, large-scale technology purchases save districts time and money, while improving instructional practices. Rather than expecting teachers to take the initiative to find effective tools for their classroom at a low cost, districts should plan for properly managed technology rollouts that keep everybody on the same page, while taking advantage of modern learning tools.