In our last blog post, Are K-12 Students Returning to a Learning Mindset?, we discussed the social-emotional needs of both students and teachers and how educators are beginning to understand and target the learning-loss that has occurred throughout the pandemic. From the survey we conducted in the fall of 2021, ninety one percent of respondents stated their school or district had already purchased or plans to purchase technologies to support current needs, indicating educators are using technology to help address these challenges.
Thanks to the much needed Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER), districts were able to quickly purchase technology to help with remote learning, such as ensuring a one-to-one ratio with laptops for children. However, few educators seem to be talking about what happens after ESSER funds are exhausted.
The pandemic left no option but for instructional and technology leaders to make rushed decisions to support instructional/digital needs, some describing the situation as “going rogue.” Such purchases exacerbated problems that commonly existed pre-pandemic, including less-than-ideal vetting and purchasing processes and software technology redundancies. Now that we have thrown every solution we can at the problem, progressive leaders like Gil Mara, Chief Technology Officer, Torrance Unified School District (CA), are asking “What happens when the money goes away?”
Mara and his team are prioritizing a “clean-up” process to review the current portfolio of software technologies – vetting for redundancies, analyzing usage and efficacy data, and identifying cost saving opportunities.
Tracey Miller, Director of Assessment, Instruction, & Evaluation, Community Consolidated School District 181 (IL), spoke of a similar initiative. “Getting a handle on what everyone has and is using has been one of the things we’ve been working on … We’d like to get to a point when we know a child has ‘x’ deficit, and these are the resources we can employ to help that student be successful.”
At Veracity, we have learned the risk of doing nothing is too high. Without knowing the full technology stack, what is being used, and what is needed, valuable time and resources are wasted. Through our research, we have collected key factors that progressive districts are monitoring to ensure the software products being used are providing value and moving education forward.
- Maintain and frequently update a comprehensive list of every software product being used, district-wide to classroom specific.
- Know the decision makers involved in purchasing and implementing the software products – Head of Technology, Head of Curriculum, Instructional Technology Teachers, etc.
- Ensure the software products in use align with the district’s strategic plan.
- Understand the usage, especially the class or school specific products, as these investments add up quickly.
- Plan a thorough software evaluation. How does the district vet each product to ensure the product will deliver on what is needed?
- Identify training opportunities. What training is needed to make sure the product is being used – both initially and ongoing?