Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

5 Pro Tips to Vet EdTech Products

5 Pro Tips to Vet EdTech Products

By Zacc Dukowitz

goodbye to ARThe edtech landscape is huge, making it difficult—and sometimes intimidating—to find a tool that solves a specific problem.

Luckily, there are a number of strategies and actions you can take to connect with other teachers and administrators who have faced the same challenges you’re facing. From these people, you can get actionable advice and tips on finding the right edtech tools for you.

Use these five tips to find new ways to vet edtech purchases with people who have faced the same challenges as you.

1. Get your superintendent to sign the Future Ready pledge.

If you’re on the team that provides insight and helps to make tech-based decisions at your school, urge your superintendent, to sign the Future Ready Pledge. This allows them to join a community of like-minded superintendents from around the country.

Here are some compelling reasons you can use to convince them to sign:

  • Signers get invited to regional summits, where they can learn from other Future Ready superintendents and from invited guest speakers.
  • Signers can participate in Leadership Network events.
  • Regional summit attendees may get free access to consulting services from leading information technology providers.
  • Signers get access to an online community of Future Ready district leaders.
  • Signers get access to the Future Ready planning tool, a growing network of resources to support superintendents in moving forward with technology and broadband implementation in their districts.

All of these perks will end up benefitting you—a knowledgeable superintendent, with many resources at their fingertips, will be better able to provide your school with tools, tips, and professional development resources for using technology.

Check out the full Future Ready pledge—and sign it—by clicking here. 

Want to learn more about Future Ready? Download LearnBop’s free introductory guide.

2. Use word of mouth.

Reach out to teachers in neighboring school and districts; meet with them at regional meetings. Make a point of connecting with people within your PLN and otherwise at conferences to share best practices and learn from them.
Though it may seem intimidating at first, most of your peers will be more than happy to answer an email or phone call asking about their experiences with a certain edtech product, or about how they worked to address a certain challenge that you know they faced.

The only problem with this approach is that it can feel a little like a shot in the dark. That is, you can certainly reach out to neighboring schools and teachers, and should, but there’s no guarantee these people have faced the same challenges you’re facing.

So how do you reach people who have faced the same exact challenges as you? Check out the next three tips.

3. Collect information and contact teachers in districts similar to yours.

Use the NCES database to identify districts in your or other states that are about the same size as yours, or use Title 1 funds listed at the Department of Education to identify districts in your state that receive a similar amount of Title 1 funds as yours.

To get a list of districts in your state, go to; click on School Search in the upper right; select Public School Districts; and then select your state, leave all the other fields blank, and click Search.

This will generate a list of all the districts in your state. To download the list as an Excel sheet, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click Download Excel File. With the file, sort by:

  • Number of students, so you can similar sized districts and schools.
  • Zip codes to help identify districts in areas similar to yours—rural, urban, etc.

Once you’ve found a list of districts to contact, collect teacher or admin contact information from their website, and send an email to the people you want to talk to. A great subject line to use is “Question from a fellow [teacher, media center specialist, tech specialist].

4. Use Twitter.

Twitter can be a powerful resource when it comes to networking with other educators. Here are a few tips for using it most effectively

Use Twitter hashtags to ask questions of the education community.

If you don’t already have one, create a Twitter account and Tweet your question, making sure to include a hashtag so that other educators will see it.

Note: Using hashtags is very important for this approach. If you don’t have a following, and don’t use a hashtag, no one will see your question. A hashtag, such as #edchat, is a unique identifier for a certain topic that many people see.

Here are a few examples Tweets:

  • “Superintendents out there—Have you tried [EdTech Resource]? What did you think? #supchat”
  • “Anyone have suggestions for how to support students in large math (35+) classes? #educhat”
  • “Looking for an #edtech tool to help with math remediation—can anyone recommend something? #blendedlearning #edchat”

Pro Tip: Make sure your hashtags are relevant to the message you’re sending, and avoid using more than two or three. If a tweet is littered with hashtags, many people will ignore it instead of engaging.

The more targeted you can be, the better. Here are a few different hashtags to get you started with targeting different types of education-related audiences.

  • #edchat
  • #educhat
  • #edtech
  • #blendedlearning
  • #edtechchat
  • #supchat

For more information on hashtags, and a list of suggested hashtags broken down by categories, check out this thorough TeachThought blog post on Twitter hashtags for educators.

Use Twitter chats to reach people at specific times of day regarding specific topics.

Twitter chat topics could be regional and topical (such as #FloridaMathChat), or just one or the other (#mathchat or #FLAteachers)

Each chat works differently—some take place during a certain window of time, while others are ongoing. Research different chats, find out when they happen, and use the hashtag associated with the chat so that people will see your question or comment.

Here are two resources for finding popular Twitter chats:

If you’re looking for something more regional, Google the topic, for example, “Michigan Twitter math chat,” and see if you find anything.

Pro Tip: Many Twitter chats have been archived, but are still valuable. Here’s a list of archived chats, to help you get started.

More: How to Expand Your Personal Learning Network with Social Media

5. Search databases and indexes of edtech resources to find tools that meet your needs.

Some high quality, useful indexes are:

Want more resources? Here are some blog posts that list top edtech resources, in case you’d like to check out the most highly recommended ones immediately, rather than sifting through indexes:

Note: This post is an edited excerpt from a much longer resource created by LearnBop entitled “The Administrator’s Guide to EdTech Purchasing.”

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5 Tips to Vet EdTech Purchases Before Buying

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