How to Get the Most out of the Education Technology Stack

17 January 2022 | By viviedu

Maximizing a school’s EdTech stack impact is one of the best ways a school administrator can support students. With a flexible, easy-to-use tech ecosystem, teachers and students can move confidently toward the best educational outcomes. But choosing the right tools and creating a system that works (within the budget) can be a daunting task. Even with the best intentions, many school leaders struggle to develop a harmonious EdTech stack that works for everyone.

Despite the overwhelming number of available EdTech tools, the solution can be easier to grasp than it may seem. By focusing on fundamental student needs and the benefits of a cohesive system, educators can choose a network of tools that remains effective as technology continues to improve. This disciplined approach might mean overlooking the next “shiny thing” in favor of synergy – a mindset that EdTech experts believe will benefit schools in the long run.

Such basic principles provide a critical foundation for constructing an EdTech stack. With the big picture always in mind, schools can avoid expensive missteps and ensure students have the best technology infrastructure possible. Consider these tips and ideas for seizing the potential of your school’s EdTech stack.

What is an Education Technology Stack?

The education technology stack is a collective term for the end-to-end systems that deliver reliable apps and services to teachers, students, and administrators. A combination of hardware and software, an EdTech stack encompasses all the technology a student might encounter within a school district. This can mean anything from a learning management system (LMS) to the digital screens they pass by in the hall.

While an EdTech stack is still a fresh concept for many administrators, we’re no longer in the early stages. As a 2020 report shows, the average school district already uses more than a thousand applications in a given month. Other reports suggest schools use around 2,000 apps in a full school year.

These are eye-popping numbers, but another figure is likely more constructive for administrators. Although many applications are cycled in and out, 15% of them account for 99% of all activity. In other words, educators and students are routinely using a relatively small number of apps while most others are transitory.

While apps can sometimes be interchangeable, the LMS and SIS (Student Information System) components tend to be static. These platforms, along with the core 15% of apps, create the basic foundation where administrators will focus their efforts. From this perspective, we can also see the formula that works today and should work tomorrow. An EdTech stack should constantly fluctuate as new technologies become available, but a solid foundation of reliable platforms and apps is essential for creating lasting stability.

Ensuring the Right Technology is in the Classroom

As an administrator assesses an EdTech ecosystem, student-oriented goals must be the equation’s centerpiece. Technology should facilitate student engagement; help provide an equitable classroom environment; allow self-directed learning; and empower students in and out of the classroom. While there is undoubtedly more to connecting with students, these integral concepts should be a driving force for assessing and implementing educational technology.

With these concepts in mind, we can begin to evaluate the crucial components of a school’s EdTech stack.

What to Look for in an SIS

On the surface, a Student Information System is the software platform that collects the most data (e.g., attendance and academic performance). But an SIS is also much more than that: it’s a conduit to a critical data exchange that informs how educators should proceed. It should also save administrative staff considerable time by allowing automation of everyday record keeping.

Related: Staying Power: Why Simplicity and Reliability Are the Keys to Longevity

With digital record keeping under a centralized SIS umbrella, educators and parents can access essential student records more easily. By taking advantage of cloud technology, an SIS can provide seamless record sharing that ultimately benefits everyone. The improved flow of student data, however, comes with fresh responsibilities. Strong cybersecurity needs to be an essential part of every SIS.

Tapping the Benefits of an LMS

Learning Management Systems are another fundamental part of an EdTech stack—and for a good reason. An LMS aims to connect students to a virtual learning experience that can enhance – or sometimes substitute for – the physical classroom. Basics like class schedules, essential documents, digital class tools, and much more are typically a part of an LMS.

Because an LMS is a core part of an EdTech stack, choosing the right LMS platform is important for school officials. While an easy-to-use interface is a must, versatility is just as important when selecting an LMS. Not only should an LMS be flexible enough to work with other key EdTech tools, but it also needs to work well on a range of devices. As more and more students look to access class materials without a PC, a school’s LMS needs to be able to handle today’s mobile requirements.

Finding Presentation Tools That All Students Can Use

One of the essential avenues of student growth is in presenting ideas to their peers. This is also an area where EdTech has made fundamental changes to the classroom. Instead of an orally based presentation, students can now use a host of digital tools that allow them to share thoughts and ideas. The best digital presentation tools allow students’ knowledge and creativity to bubble to the surface, empowering their confidence.

Related: 8 Reasons Screen Mirroring is an Essential Resource for Improving Student Learning with Technology

Stoking that confidence is a goal of educators. To maximize the flow of ideas in a classroom, simplifying the sharing process can be very beneficial to the student. Instead of using an EdTech tool they are unfamiliar with, students can thrive when they can share directly from their own devices and apps. User-friendly tools like wireless screen mirroring can encourage thoughtful peer-to-peer sharing—one of the cornerstones of the successful educational experience.

Maximizing the Use of Learning Applications

Administrators need to walk a somewhat fine line when adopting learning apps. On one hand, interactive lessons, quizzes, and virtual activities can stir a student’s interest and encourage learning. But while these types of breakthroughs are certainly the goal, educators also have to be wary of the possibility of overt gamification. Although some gamification can be beneficial, too much can focus a student more on the technology than the material.

That said, learning applications can create a tremendous range of potential benefits. Outside of encouraging self-directed learning on a topic, they can also be used in furtherance of a school’s Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) goals. Critically, students can learn how to detect social cues without worrying about negative consequences. When administrators are implementing or assessing learning apps, student engagement and SEL benefits should be an essential consideration in the process.

Furthering Educational Goals with a Tech Ecosystem

Schools and districts have a responsibility to report on the progress of their students and their access to technology. The U.S. Department of Education has long promoted equal-access learning ecosystems that make learning possible from anywhere. One of the keys is to use technology to overcome physical barriers that were inhibitive in the past. Regardless of socioeconomic background or other factors like sensory impairments, all students should be able to benefit from a school’s EdTech.

The Department also recommends that learning technology resources be aligned to intended educational outcomes. All districts should design, develop, and implement learning dashboards and response systems that provide critical feedback and support for students. Resources that offer important levels of personalization should also be prioritized, as students who learn on their own terms can adopt excellent long-term habits. Self-directed learning can help students become active learners instead of passive ones, which experts point to as a vital part of successful learning.

Using EdTech to Improve All-Around Communication

A school’s LMS should help provide excellent communication, document sharing, and more, but school administrators can often overlook another critical aspect of a school’s EdTech. Digital screens have been a part of a school’s tech infrastructure for many years, although schools are only now able to fully tap their capabilities. Advancements in cloud technology have made digital screens more than simplistic message delivery systems; they now provide schools with endless flexibility to communicate with students and faculty.

They can also be critical for providing additional support for students. Automated messaging can help schools create customized message delivery systems that ensure all students have access to critical information. This can mean reminders for a new club meeting, important information for an upcoming event, the sharing of student accomplishments, emergency announcements, and much more.

The use of digital screens for communication fits neatly within the foundation upon which administrators and IT departments must build an education technology stack. A principal mission of every district is to promote engagement and utilize the flexibility of digital technology to the advantage of the individual school. Today’s cloud-connected screens can introduce students to school activities that otherwise might get drowned out in everyday chaos. In addition to providing an informational boost for students, a cloud-based network of digital screens is much easier to manage than the decentralized screens of yesteryear.

Tips for EdTech Troubleshooting

As educational requirements evolve over time, administrators may have to reconsider the way they use existing technologies or source add-on solutions to solve problems. One of the main ways to avoid issues is to stay focused on the long-term goals set in place when constructing—or redirecting—a school’s EdTech stack. 

Although it can be tempting to make significant changes while balancing the many needs of students and educators, a steady hand is required. New technologies must add to the larger picture and cause minimal or no disruptions. Administrators who remain disciplined in their approach will be at an advantage over the long term. This usually means making small-scale changes and remembering that maximizing a school’s EdTech is not a race. 

Because there will always be some need for change, generating core principles, clarity of vision, and consistent reassessment can help an administration resolve emerging problems and shifts.

Education Technology is a Process, Not a Destination

Education technology must benefit and work for all parties in order to maximize the return on investment. The key to choosing the right EdTech system is committing to understanding the impact of all the essential components. It’s important to remember that every district’s solution will be slightly different and that there is no guaranteed blueprint for success.

An EdTech stack’s components must evolve as the school’s requirements change and new technologies are developed. Investing in a platform for the present rather than the future could be costly. It’s also critical to find a solution designed specifically for use in education. While the technologies used in schools may be similar to more general platforms used by businesses, platforms that are not education-specific can be lacking in critical areas.

The overarching plan that administrators put together to meet long-term goals is what will ultimately make a school’s educational technology successful. Guidance that stresses versatility and continually circles back to the needs of individual students will help put administrators on a path to success.

Vivi provides an agnostic, student-oriented platform built to improve engagement through today’s best technology. Our wireless screen-sharing tool empowers students to share confidently with peers, while our cloud-based platform can integrate with any technology a school already has in place. Contact us today for more on how Vivi can help your school’s EdTech stack reach its potential.