With Bett upon us, it’s a great time to be thinking about what next for education technology. As you would expect, there has been a plethora of different articles and posts highlighting the best way to make the most of Bett. I should know as I’ve written enough of them over the years.
In this short post though, I thought I would provide you with a list of pertinent questions you should be asking edtech vendors when you go to the event. With budgets always on the decrease too, Bett is a great opportunity to have some decent conversations with edtech providers. Many, for example, will be able to offer discounts, but unless you ask about them and haggle a bit, you may never know what money you could have been saving your school.
Don’t be afraid either to seek out alternatives. Almost every school I have ever worked in or with has hated the legacy of Capita SIMS on their budgets, so now would be a great opportunity to speak with their competitors such as Engage, iSAMS, or new kids on the block, Scholar Pack, among others in the market.
You might also like to complete this fun little ‘Bett Bingo’ card that I’ve created and share some of your responses on Twitter?
So, here are my top five questions to ask edtech vendors at BETT2020…
What research has informed the development of your product?
Research or evidence-informed practice is all the rage on social media for education – and quite rightly so. It may be that the vendor comes back and says, “Well, our product doesn’t require that because we aren’t a teaching and learning product” or “Cognitive psychology isn’t relevant for our product” – it may well be the case that they are correct. Many products have nothing to do with improving teaching or learning outcomes. That said, there should be a “raison d’être”; their reason for their product’s existence – if that doesn’t satisfy you, move on. You should also not accept ‘increased engagement’ as a response around any claims about the product.
Equally, if the product is something that should impact upon teaching and learning and the reply you get from the vendor is an “errrrr” or an “ummmmm”, perhaps move on slowly to the next vendor and see what their response is instead.
What impacts are we likely to see if we use/purchase your product?
Sure, there will be lots of case studies being provided but many companies actually have teacher volunteers on their stands. Speak with them rather than the sales teams. Teachers are super honest and so ask them, “What impacts will I see? What problems might I face? Why did you choose this product over its competition?”
What support do you give for adoption of your product in schools?
It’s all very well and good having the latest edtech in your school, but if nobody is using it, was it even worth it? Of course not – getting the technology right in schools is a difficult change management process. Finding out how the vendor can help you make the most out of it is in both their interest and yours. And if they don’t have an answer, you kind of have your answer for you already!
How does your product help to raise standards/reduce workload/improve teaching etc?
All edtech products will have a key issue that they seek to address. It could be an auto-marking tool, or a tool to cut down paperwork or improve teaching… whatever their focus is, really push vendors on what and how their product helps. You may know of other vendors of similar products too, so ask them to explain what sets their product out against their competitors. Make notes and, if possible, ask if you can record the conversation on your phone to listen back to later. Bold over-claims are easy to double-check against documentation, so this again will help you to make your decisions.
How often do you update your product, what is the process for this happening and what hidden charges might we experience?
When products change, it can have a huge impact on adoption and usage. Remember what happened when Microsoft Office changed to Office 2007 with its new ribbon? Ask vendors when they do their updates. What is the frequency? How do they ensure that their updates don’t impact upon lesson delivery, content, teachers doing their work, so forth and so on. In relation to licensing, I will always remember being asked to trial the SIMS iPad app only to find that on top of the already high cost of their product, they expected an extra licence to be paid to enable login on a different device. Be very clear about what you will be expected to pay for and, once you’ve found out, benchmark those costs against what alternative providers charge for the same service.
Hopefully, you’ll read this post in the way it is intended: to be supportive and helpful to schools in their visits to the show. Please do check out the article in SecEd magazine (page 12) which has some more great advice and insights. There are lots of other guides available too, such as my old blog here:
In the meantime, I hope to see you at Bett 2020 too. I will be on the NetSupport stand, NL44, each day and will be presenting there too:
When: Wednesday 22 January – 4pm
Where: NetSupport Group stand NL44
What: Your edtech teaching and learning toolkit sorted – where I will be launching a teaching and learning toolkit aimed at three different edtech ecosystems, namely:
- Chromebook schools
- iPad schools
- Office/Windows schools
When: Thursday 23 January – 3pm
Where: NetSupport Group stand NL44
What: Creating a digital strategy that’s right for your school
Here, Al Kingsley, NetSupport’s MD, and I will share insights into how to successfully build a sound digital strategy for your school. Whilst you are here, you will also want to grab a copy of our free ‘Guide To Creating A Digital Strategy’ that I co-authored with Al.
When: Friday 24 January – 12 noon
Where: Frog Education NK60/NK70
What: Digital Strategy – why IT’s important and how you can do IT
Here I will run through a toolkit to support you develop your digital strategy in your school. While you are here, grab a copy of the ‘Guide To Creating A Digital Strategy’ that I co-authored with Al Kingsley, MD of NetSupport Group.
When: Friday 24 January – 2:20pm
Where: Tech in Action arena
What: Flipping the flip
Here, I will explore a strategy for supporting and getting the most out of embedding Flipped Learning in your classroom. For more info on this session please visit here.
If you’d like to meet me to discuss the potential of working with me, either on a professional learning basis or in my role as a support to your edtech company, please book in a meeting slot here: https://calendly.com/ictevangelist/bett2020