An edtech veteran provides perspective on what to consider when purchasing.
GUEST COLUMN | by Tim Schigur
The best deal isn’t always a perfect fit with respect to buying education-based technology.
Sometimes, the ideal solution for now becomes substandard as time progresses. For instance, underperforming technology became glaringly obvious when schools moved to remote or virtual learning in 2020 when older devices often proved unable to perform the necessary tasks during 1-to-1 remote learning.
‘Before making an investment, put time and forethought into a decision that will pay off longitudinally.’
While being intentional with technology purchases is nothing new, it is now more important than ever. Today’s growth of the digital learning landscape puts more pressure on tech systems than we ever experienced in the past.
Three Facets to Consider
Today’s buyer cannot approach technology purchases in the same way as they always have. Where you may have paid more attention to budget in the past, now schools and districts must focus on all facets of the investment: system, quality, and return on investment. These – far more than a dollar figure – will dictate the right choice for your equipment.
Make sure your next educational technology purchase is made purposefully, by considering the following:
1. Think Longer Term: For the benefit of your school, think about the bigger picture. Plan longitudinally. With brand-new devices constantly being brought to market, it can be hard to cut through the marketing to find what will suit your long-term needs. But that’s exactly when you will rely on the appropriate choice – perhaps a year or two from today.
Rarely is it worth short-changing your product in exchange for a lower price. Forecast your tech needs for the coming years and ensure a purchase provides you with the capacity to operate efficiently until your next scheduled upgrade. Future proofing your fleet to account for an appropriate amount of inboard storage, RAM, and processor capacity is key.
Look at more than simply the short-term effect the price tag will have on your budget; the total cost of ownership is far more important than the upfront cost. If you have made the right investment, longitudinally, you will have spent less money than buying an inferior solution that you had to spend more money and human capital on.
2. Seek Out Quality. A solid device will retain value when you have finished using it. Quality will offer a considerably stronger return on investment than less-costly counterparts.
This is why devices such as MacBooks are such popular choices for the education setting. Such brand-name computers are in demand because they have long lifespans and will operate solidly for years, even among heavy users such as gamers and video editors. For school systems, known as moderate users, you can expect devices to operate even longer.
Plus, devices with longer lifespans can be upgraded more frequently through upcycling. That means you’ll be able to resell your equipment later, giving you capital to upgrade your technology purchase once again. Suddenly, the higher price tag on your initial investment no longer seems overwhelming.
3. System Matters: Assess Your Needs. For as nice as a device looks on the outside, and despite its many features, the operating system of your device is what will make or break your relationship with the product.
A Longitudinal Payoff
With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and a rise in remote learning that is unlikely to ever go away entirely, a system to handle your needs is an organizational imperative. Your district must rely on its operating system both now, and for years to come. Identify operating systems that have seamless integration and ease of use to keep everyone connected whether they’re in the same room or across the country.
Remember that staff has very different user needs than do students, but their expectations for their devices remains the same: At every level, your users require systems that won’t lag while running multiple programs. They need to know that, no matter the workload, their computer won’t overheat. They need a product that can stand up to eight-hour days, for many years at a time. In order to do that, you’ll need fast processors, a robust operating system, high battery life and top-notch displays.
Shopping for educational technology can be overwhelming. Not every system will serve your district the way you need. Before making an investment, put time and forethought into a decision that will pay off longitudinally. Undoubtedly, doing so will help you find the solution that will serve your district for years to come.
Tim Schigur, Ed. D., Director of Procurement (central U.S.) for Diamond Assets, understands firsthand the complexities within schools and the difference technology can make on student success and faculty support. He has been a middle school teacher, a principal for both elementary and middle schools, and a school district superintendent. He has significant expertise with school technology needs including piloting a 1-to-1 iPad initiative, and he led a districtwide 1-to-1 iPad/MacBook technology initiative, using existing district budget, for the lowest spending district in state of Wisconsin.