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Partnering for Change: What To Look For in a K-12 Technology Vendor 

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If you're evaluating new technology vendors to support teaching and learning in your district, we have advice backed by more than two decades of experience.

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Exploring new technology to support teaching and learning in your district? We have advice. 

Don’t Just Evaluate the Technology  

Adopting new technology as a school district is a daunting task. There’s the technical implementation to manage, including setting up integrations with existing tools; pilots to run; the first round of staff training to organize; change management planning; and more staff training … and then comes the return on investment evaluation. Did what we buy actually improve student learning or teacher success? And if it didn’t, why not? Was the technology flawed? Or was the rollout strategy the problem? How can we tell? 

Over our two decades supporting districts and departments of education with effective implementation of new technology, we’ve noticed some changes in the ways districts evaluate technology. Even up to a couple of years ago, most districts focused solely on the technology itself: Does it meet the technical requirements? If it did, and the price was right, the district moved forward. But in recent years, we’ve seen districts shift their evaluations to include one new—and very critical—requirement: Does the vendor providing this technology share our strategic goals as a district, and will they partner with us to meet these goals?  

Why is this so critical? Because technology adoption is never as simple as point and click—it needs to be thoughtfully executed to truly ensure movement on strategic teaching and learning goals. School districts implementing new technology are most successful when they are supported by a strong vendor partner that understands and shares these goals. A technology vendor partner should be collaborative from the very beginning of a decision-making process or partnership, laying out a clear plan with the services and resources they will provide to help you roll out your new technology and support your stakeholders with strategic and change management planning and providing ongoing reflections on how the technology is helping you meet your goals. 

Make Sure You’ve Found the Right Partner 

When you’re choosing the right technology for your district, here are some questions you should ask of vendors (and suggestions on how best to evaluate their responses): 

What is your approach to partnering to help us meet our needs, and can you share examples of other school districts you have supported? 

Things to look for: 

  • a clear response that focuses on helping you achieve your strategic goals with the technology you are implementing through change management sessions, implementation planning and ongoing customer support 
  • a focus on collaboration and feedback, particularly related to any product feedback your end users may provide or services you may require as a district 
  • a comprehensive list of districts with similar strategic goals to yours that they have supported, with specific examples of what this support looked like 

Red flags to be aware of: 

  • a lack of understanding of your specific strategic goals and how their technology can support those goals 
  • an approach that only includes technical support (and skips over teaching and learning resources) 

Who are the people we will be working with at your company, and what will our relationship look like? 

Things to look for: 

  • a key contact or team on the vendor side focused on your success (not on upselling) that will meet regularly with your team to discuss your strategic goals and how to meet them with the technology 
  • a dedicated team of education experts who can support you in aligning your teaching and learning goals with the technology, including product trainers, change management consultants, and teaching and learning experts 

Red flags to be aware of: 

  • Instead of having regular meetings, you only meet with the company when it’s time to renew your contract for the technology.  
  • You are charged for adoption services or customer success support (especially if the reasoning is “Well, our tool is just so easy to use, you won’t need help!”). Modern technology is easy to learn, but applying it in classrooms and districtwide to meet learning goals is not just a simple click of the button. A solid vendor partner should provide support that will help you get the value you need out of your technology.  

What are your recommendations on how we should measure success with your product? 

Things to look for: 

  • a commitment to working with you to co-define success metrics and evaluate these metrics over time alongside your team.  
  • an acknowledgment of how technology adoption models work and how this will impact your success timelines (check out this D2L guide to coaching your staff through a technology adoption)  
  • insight into how the company will collaborate with you if you are not seeing the impact on teaching and learning that you expected with their product 

Red flags to be aware of: 

  • the suggestion that single-user logins to the technology is the main source of data for adoption and usage the company recommends—single-user logins are useful, but they do not represent a full adoption story 

Implementing a new educational technology requires the dedication of a lot of resources (including money, time and personnel) for your district. You shouldn’t need to undertake this journey alone. Choosing the right technology means choosing the right vendor, one that shares your strategic goals and will partner with you in striving for excellence in teaching and learning.  

Want to learn more? 

Whether you’re evaluating LMS solutions for the first time or reevaluating your current LMS, it’s critical to listen to the specific needs of your teachers, students and staff. We’ve created a Learning Management System Evaluation Guide for K–12 to assist you in the evaluation process to select a vendor that best meets everyone’s requirements. Get your free guide here.