Mar 12 2024
Digital Workspace

What Is Educational Technology (Ed Tech), and Why Should Schools Invest in It?

School IT leaders can make smarter tech purchasing decisions when they consider the impact and value these tools have on teaching and learning.

Long gone are the days of overhead projectors and handwritten papers. Today’s teachers have robust technology at their disposal, and students have grown up in an increasingly digital world. But, with so many software applications, devices and other technologies on the market, it’s easy for teachers to become overwhelmed with the array of opportunities available to them.

K–12 schools used, on average, 2,591 ed tech tools during the 2022-2023 school year, according to a Statista survey. This is a 1.7 percent increase from the 2021-2022 school year and a nearly 190 percent increase from the 2018-2019 school year, when districts used an average of 895 tools.

With all the technologies available, K–12 IT leaders and administrators need to ensure they’re selecting the right tools for their users. The best way to ensure educational technology is being used is to invest in software and hardware that are valuable to both students and teachers.

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What Is Ed Tech in K–12 Schools?

Educational technology, or ed tech, encompasses a wide variety of applications, software, hardware and infrastructure components — from online quizzes and learning management systems to individual laptops for students and the access points that enable Wi-Fi connectivity.

Interactive panels are a popular tool, and schools have recently implemented learning management systems that allow parents to connect with teachers. Even virtual and augmented reality can be found in some classrooms, says Rachelle Dené Poth, who teaches Spanish and STEAM (science, technology engineering, art and math) classes at Riverview School District. An International Society for Technology in Education–certified educator, Poth is also an attorney and author.

“AR and VR transform how students are learning by immersing them in a different environment, giving them a more hands-on, authentic and meaningful experience,” says Poth. “This enables them to better connect with the content in a way that they understand and can build upon, leveraging the new with the knowledge they already have.”

MORE ON EDTECH: Emerging technologies for modern classrooms steal the spotlight.

What Is the Value of Educational Technology Today?

Even if the district doesn’t have the latest VR tech, educational technology still plays a vital role in the classroom.

“I think ed tech is necessary in the sense that it allows us to do things that, if we were to go back, I could not imagine doing,” says David Chan, director of instructional technology for Evanston Township High School.

Before Chan joined the administrative team 10 years ago, he spent a decade in the classroom — an experience that he believes allows him to do his job better. Having been in the teachers’ position, he can make more informed decisions from the perspective of how technology can impact, benefit or burden the hundreds of teachers in his school.

“First and foremost, the ed tech should support the teaching and learning,” he says.

Certain ed tech, such as quizzes in the middle of class, can collect and analyze valuable data for teachers in real time, Chan adds. Online quizzes provide snapshots of where students are in the moment, allowing teachers to capitalize on crucial learning opportunities rather than reviewing and grading a handwritten quiz later when that opportunity has passed.

“We have always been able to personalize learning for our students pre-technology; it just took more time, and we had fewer resources,” Poth says. “With the different tools available today, especially with artificial intelligence and robust LMS platforms, it helps us have a better workflow and reduces the amount of time it takes to move between tools.”


The average number of educational technologies K–12 districts used during the 2022-2023 school year

Source:, “Average number of education technology tools used per K-12 school district in the United States from the 2016-17 school year to the 2022-23 school year,” July 2023

Incorporating technology into the classroom can also highlight potential career paths for students. Through coding, creating a podcast, taking apart a drone or learning graphic design, students can explore various technologies that will likely play a role in their future.

“Technology allows students to get a bit more authentic with projects,” says Chan. “It makes them feel like it’s more than just a school project. It could be something they see themselves doing outside of school.”

What Is the Impact of Educational Technology?

When researching a new educational tool, the first thing to answer is the question of impact: How does this impact and provide value to teachers and students?

“We always want to focus on the why and the how, not the ‘wow’ factor,” says Poth. “Why should we use it, and how is it going to enhance or transform student learning? Because it worked for someone else’s class doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to have the same impact on other students. Always focus on the pedagogical value before purchasing the technology.”

DIVE DEEPER: Planning and administrator support are necessary to sustain devices.

Tech that’s difficult to use presents a significant obstacle to adoption. Narrow the potential list to solutions that don’t require complicated setup for educators, or ensure that the proper training and support are in place. “The best compliment I get from teachers is that they didn’t have to call my team to learn how to use it,” Chan says.

It’s also crucial to consult the privacy policy of any new technology. Verify that it aligns with the necessary laws and regulations, as well as your school’s own policies.

Tips for K–12 Schools Investing in Ed Tech

Chan’s advice for all ed tech purchases — from trying something new to renewing an existing license — is to be slow and intentional. One of the biggest mistakes schools can make is to jump in too quickly.

“Piloting allows us to scale up in a responsible way,” he says.

After doing the research to ensure a new device or software aligns with the school environment, do a pilot run with a few licenses or devices. Ask teachers and students who participate for feedback. Having those conversations can aid IT teams with the full launch or with other technologies in the future.

Rachelle Dene Poth
We always want to focus on the why and the how, not the ‘wow’ factor.”

Rachelle Dené Poth Spanish and STEAM Teacher, Riverview School District

A helpful tip, shares Chan, is setting up a standard workflow so the IT department is carefully reviewing every item the school pays for before it’s renewed. These checks are opportunities to review existing data from companies to see if the ed tech is being used at the volume expected. If not, don’t be afraid to cut the cord with services, particularly if teachers are unhappy with them, which impacts the return on investment.

Poth suggests enabling single sign-on, which streamlines access and prevents roadblocks to adoption. “It’s super helpful for students and teachers, especially when trying to bring different tools into the classroom.”

Ultimately, ed tech is here to stay, and its presence in the classroom will only increase. Administrators and IT leaders can start by analyzing the tools they currently have, then begin having conversations with teachers and students about ways to improve.

DISCOVER: District sets out to learn how its teachers are using technology.

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