Asking the Right Questions when Considering Edtech

Schools today are grappling with how to fully leverage technology to transform teaching and learning in the classroom. Because of the urgency of this matter, schools may often adopt an edtech tool or technology plan without fully questioning its purpose, how the purpose is connected to the vision of the school, and what student outcomes are expected. Schools today must proactively prepare students (and teachers) for rapid changes in technology, society, and in the workplace. Innovation in schools requires continual learning and relentless inquiry. Inquiry not only helps us illuminate problems, but our curiosity through a purposeful approach can help us create solutions, innovative ideas, and inspire others in the process. A resource that helps organizations ask crucial questions to uncover problems and develop innovative solutions is Drucker’s (2011) book, The five most important questions you will ever ask about your organization. For the purpose of this post, we will take three of the five questions and apply them to an educational context. These questions can be used any time school leaders are looking to change the course, or as pulse check to ensure that our actions relate back to a bigger goal.

What is our vision?

Depending on our respective role, we have specific actions and tasks that characterize our day. As educators, we continually reevaluate how we approach our work based on our vision for learning in our school. As technology coordinators, principals, or teachers, we all have a common goal that revolves around student learning success. Before considering the “how” or the “what” we must have a clear picture of our “why.” This is best captured through a visioning process. Once our shared vision is clearly developed and embraced, every new question or action is birthed from the vision.  

What do our teachers and students value?

Aligning to what teachers and students actually value in terms of technology use during their educational experience is critically important. Introducing technology into the classroom that does not align with what teachers and students value will only complicate the situation. There is a great deal of talk in education about the need for teaching 21st century skills, but do we know for certain that the that the students, and more importantly the teachers, value 21st century skills? Is it clear how a given technology can assist in developing those skills in students? It is necessary to take the time to explore what teachers and students value so that appropriate technology tools can be aligned with their values.

What are results do we hope to see?

There is no denying the fact that when we put instructional technology into schools, we expect to see positive results. Sometimes we would like to see quantitative results, like improved test scores, other times we are looking for qualitative results, like improved engagement. What those anticipated results are, and how they will be measured, must be planned out ahead of time. One tool that can help districts craft research projects to evaluate the effectiveness of any instructional technology is the Ed Tech Rapid Cycle Evaluation Coach. The tool can help districts identify what kind of results they would like to see, and then plan and execute an evaluation of the effectiveness of the introduced technology. In this way, schools can make informed decisions to support their future technology purchasing decisions.

By reflecting on potential new edtech initiatives through these questions, we are able to clearly identify why we are doing what we’re doing, how to improve our work, and how to develop a purposeful technology learning plan with specific actions to help us achieve our goals. Additionally, a questioning framework of this nature should be a part of individual reflections as well as a part of a collaborative environment to provide the most in-depth exploration of the current reality and high quality question outcomes.

Amy Brown and Nathan Lang co-authored this post. 

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