White Paper Outlines Advice for Better Ed-Tech Procurement

Associate Editor

Finding a way to make the road to ed-tech procurement less circuitous is, in many ways, the Holy Grail for companies offering their products to schools. At the same time, some school leaders have invested time and money on ed tech that isn’t used or doesn’t work the way it was intended, as a result of a procurement process gone wrong.

To address this challenge, a group of interested parties this week released a free white paper called “Smart Series Guide to EdTech Procurement.” The paper was produced by four businesses and organizations: Curriculum Associates, LLC, a company that produces instructional materials, assessments and data management tools, Digital Learning Now! (DLN), a national initiative under the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), Getting Smart, a firm that writes about and consults with organizations about educational innovation, and The Learning Accelerator, a non-profit working on the implementation of high-quality blended learning

The white paper suggests a framework to guide decisionmaking about ed-tech purchases, and highlights what the authors call “best practices in education policy that support smart procurement.”

The report identifies roadblocks to successful procurement of ed tech: the fact that the buyers are not the users; an often lengthy and cumbersome process; and the existence of policies and regulations that hinder discussion.

To address these issues, the authors recommend several ways to streamline procurement policy, from exploring cooperative purchasing to modernizing conflict of interest and intellectual property policies.

Schools wanting to purchase new educational technology should start by taking inventory of what they already have, the report says. The authors cite one district where a superintendent and a principal in that district had different ideas about what products were used in the classroom. It turns out the teachers actually used products that were not on either the superintendent’s or principal’s lists.

To contain costs, the report recommends that educators limit how much customization they request, and demand guarantees and assurances about how much districts of a similar size have paid for the same product.

In all, a dozen steps are recommended for “smart” ed-tech procurement. Summarized, they are:

  • Take inventory.
  • Determine the educational priorities.
  • Exercise caution on customization.
  • Pursue collaborative investigation and purchases.
  • Demand guarantees and assurances.
  • Make real comparisons.
  • Conduct a pilot.
  • Prioritize data sharing and interoperability.
  • Remember that service matters.
  • Consider total cost of ownership.
  • Close the deal.
  • Implement, implement, implement.

The full paper is available here.

Note: Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, is also a blogger for Education Week.

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