Top mistake principals make when investing in tech

Top mistake principals make when investing in tech

As tech transformation creeps into the education sector, some are saying that investing in edutech is not only beneficial, but necessary. Before jumping on the expensive bandwagon, The Educator sat down with an industry expert to find out how to avoid making any costly mistakes.

“One of the schools we spoke to had invested in a lot of hardware in the past but because the device was so complicated, they didn’t bother learning the functions or using it,” said Jeffrey Liang, president at BenQ Asia Pacific Corporation.

Liang’s most important advice to principals investing in technology is thus this: understand your end-user.

The cautionary tale he provided highlights one of the greatest challenges faced by many principals. For the past five years, he has visited at least 50 schools across the globe to better understand users of products like interactive panels and one issue always seemed to pop up.

“The first thing principals are very worried about is the disconnect between technology and education,” he said. “Think about it from a teachers’ perspective – if you are a teacher with many students looking at you [in class] and you’re not familiar with the device or don’t feel comfortable with it, you’ll try to avoid using it because you may not want to ‘lose face’ in front of them.”

The term ‘lose face’ means being humiliated or losing respect of your audience and has its roots in Asia.

This is why principals should always take time to find out how teachers engage with their students in classrooms and how best to meet their needs. It is also imperative that principals not get swayed by gadgets or equipment that promises to do “more” and focus on products that teachers would actually use and can easily learn.

“Sometimes tech companies, because they want to sell their products at a higher rate, include a lot of functions that you may not even know how to use,” he said. “But BenQ interviews all users – from principals, IT managers to teachers – to understand their pain points.”

With teachers, the BenQ team always works on finding out how they get their students’ attention before deciding which functions are the most important for their products, he explained.

For example, the team found that teachers consider the “freeze” function on an interactive panel an important one. Most people may consider it a simple function, being able to play a video and pause it at will, but teachers find it highly useful in class because they’re able to play videos and stop at any time for a teaching moment.

“Whether you’re investing in hardware or software, at the end of the day you need to meet your users’ needs,” he said.

Also, principals should keep in mind that they can’t always depend on the IT manager to constantly train teachers how to use the school’s tech devices – especially considering factors like teacher turnover rate.

“Technology needs to be user-friendly and intuitive,” he said. “Just like products like the iPad – do you ever see [people depending on] a user manual? Not really.

“Technology exists to help people, not to make their lives more complicated. Especially in education because some teachers don’t have the knowledge on tech. [At the end of the day] teachers just want peace of mind.”