In most classrooms, software, apps, and websites are integral parts of the students’ experience. They do everything from record keeping to providing instructional content. With so many options out there, it can be hard to perform due diligence when evaluating new programs. From the simplest app to comprehensive instructional tools, here are four questions you need to ask to ensure you’re making a good pick.
Is there a trial or pilot period?
All programs look good on paper and during demos. What you really need to determine is whether it will work for your specific use case. The larger the investment, the more time you want to spend with a program. You should even conduct trial periods for free software and apps—they may have additional content or functionalities that need to be purchased after the fact to fit your needs.
What support resources are available?
Everything you adopt should have at least some kind of customer support available. Even something as simple as a FAQ page for a free app is better than nothing. In particular, look for support resources designed for when things go wrong (like server crashes, data malfunctions, etc.) and best practices for implementation, like sample lesson plans or a user community forum. It’s always nice to be able to find possibilities for the program that you didn’t initially think of.
Is our data secure?
You know how you are often greeted with a Terms of Service agreement when you download or sign up for something new? Many people don’t read them before giving their consent. The problem is that many free web services and apps have embedded the consent to capture and use data within those agreements, or even the ability to sell that data to advertisers or other organizations. This may not be a big deal in your personal life, but protecting your students’ privacy always needs to be top priority. Take some time to read Terms of Service agreements and ask questions about how a program or app handles data.
What about advertising?
The more you’ve paid for something, the less likely you and your students will be subject to advertising when using the service. After all, companies and developers need to support themselves somehow. You may not have a problem with students being exposed to ads, but pay attention to what is being advertised while conducting your trial period. If ads look like something students will click on that may be inappropriate or subject your devices to harmful malware, cookies, and other bugs, think twice before moving ahead with the program.
Want more tips to help make sure you’re choosing the right new program or app for your school or classroom? Check out this blog post on Edtech Evaluation and the 5 Qualities to Look for in a Provider!