School Superintendents to Ed Tech: 'Please Stop'
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Washington state superintendent set off a firestorm of support when
she tweeted in mid-March to education companies: "...To every
vendor, solution partner, researcher, education advocate, etc. please
stop. Just stop. My WA superintendent colleagues and I confronting
school closure need to focus on our communities. Let us do our jobs."
a survey of superintendents at other school districts has confirmed
the sentiment first expressed by Susan
who leads Highline
near Seattle. Nearly half (46 percent) said what they most need from
ed tech right now is "to be left alone."
survey drew responses from 67 superintendents who belong to the
a period when school system leaders are focused on making sure
students get enough food and have the equipment and access they need
for remote learning and are trying to figure out plans for the fall,
what's not helping, they said, was a "flood of sales calls from
technology vendors offering to help."
superintendents want most is to be left alone in the middle of this
crisis," noted James Harvey, executive director of the
Roundtable, in a statement. "They worry that unvalidated
products are being marketed to parents and teachers that distract
from the district's mission."
to the survey, the main solution needed from vendors was professional
development, to help teachers use the technology that schools already
have in place. On a scale of one to six, with six being the most
critical, that was ranked 4.1 in terms of importance.
experiences with vendors (mentioned by 32 percent of respondents)
have overshadowed the positive ones (20 percent). As one person
asserted, "We are now creating a list of which companies we are
going to blacklist because of this unethical sales behavior."
Said another, "Honestly, there are some vendors I will never do
business with in the future because of the crazy amount of emails."
Besides, said 54 percent of survey participants, they aren't even the
right people to contact regarding district technology needs.
about all those free software offers promoted by hundreds of
companies (and, ahem, this publication)? Two-thirds of respondents
(67 percent) said those deals are turning into a "distraction
from district mission." "Free offers are helpful, but we
need a plan to evaluate what we are using and time to study
implementation," one superintendent said. "Who doesn't like
free? However, it does distract from our focus if the products aren't
vetted first," added another.
lack of product vetting is also troublesome for free offers made to
families and teachers, the survey found. Forty-eight percent of
district leaders said they worry about marketing unvalidated products
to these audiences, and a quarter (24 percent) said they're concerned
that the products and services don't necessarily align with current
those free programs end, most superintendents were pretty sure they
won't adopt the new technology. Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) said
they would only follow through on purchases after district review;
another 17 percent said they wouldn't consider purchase at all. As
one respondent bemoaned, "Given the nature of where we will be
with district budgets, I don't believe we will be purchasing anything
new when this is over."
overall results of the survey have suggested "that vendors would
be well served to step lightly in the current highly charged and
difficult environment," the report concluded. Ed tech would be
better served, first, by staying out of the way of superintendents as
they map a path through the pandemic for their schools and, second,
directing their focus on district curriculum directors and
information technology specialists. That's the best way, the report
stated, to build "trust, respect and reliable long-term markets
with school leaders."
report is openly available on
the National Superintendents Roundtable's website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.