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All Things Considered: What To Ask Before Purchasing Ed Tech

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Education is a staple of modern life and technology is increasingly a staple of modern education. The education technology industry represents $8 billion in annual spending, and public schools in the United States spend $3 billion a year on digital content.

In most cases it’s money well spent. Seventy-four percent of teachers who responded to a recent national survey conducted by PBS said technology enables them to reinforce and expand classroom content. In addition, 73 percent of respondents said technology helps them better respond to a variety of learning styles, and more than two-thirds said they want more technology in their classrooms.

Despite the benefits, however, simply adding more technology to the classroom, whether in K-12 or higher education, doesn’t guarantee results. Before you make a large education technology investment, consider the following questions to ensure the investment is the best use of funds—and will provide the best possible educational outcomes.

 

Top 10 Questions To Ask Before An Ed Tech Purchase

  1. What goal are you trying to achieve? Goals are a big part of education, and they should be a big part of education technology investments as well. Don’t buy first and ask questions later—carefully consider what you are trying to achieve and then choose the technology solution that best meets your classroom goals and district standards. A creative writing department where students spend the class period writing quietly at their desks or conferring with classmates one-on-one probably doesn’t need a fancy video conferencing system, but a geology class where students regularly check in with scientists stationed in Africa probably does.
  2. Can the tool meet more than one need? It can be tempting to identify a specific problem and then find a specific tool to meet it, but the best education technology investments can be shared across departments and disciplines and meet multiple needs at once. A multi-purpose tool that can be used in more than one place helps advance technology standardization across your organization and can also extend the life of the investment. For example, some disciplines might require cutting edge technology while others can get the same positive results with hand-me-down tools, but only if the tool is flexible and adaptable enough to meet more than the original need.
  3. Is it compatible with existing tools and platforms? What is your district or university’s platform or device of choice? If everyone is using PCs you don’t want to buy a tool that is only compatible with a Mac. Ensuring your new investment can work easily with existing hardware and software solutions is critical to success.
  4. Does it increase engagement? Education tools need to keep students on task—not distract them—and should be useful to students wherever they are on the learning spectrum. A clear outline of the goals you are hoping to achieve will also help ensure you choose a relevant, applicable tool that enhances and increases productivity and engagement rather than distracting students and taking them off task.
  5. What kind of training and support is available from the manufacturer? Ever tried to use a kitchen appliance or change the clock on your car without the user’s manual? Lots of swearing and wasted time usually ensues, and swearing and wasted time are not great in the educational space. Before you purchase a tool, make sure everyone will receive the training and support they need to make the tool a success. This includes manufacturer demonstrations, hands-on training and a responsive customer service department to quickly address questions, malfunctions and other trouble-shooting needs. Extra credit for manufacturers who are familiar helping teachers specifically.
  6. Do teachers and students like the tool? As an IT pro or technology buyer, the benefits of a certain tool or technology might be obvious to you, but it’s money wasted if teachers and students don’t like it and don’t use it. Seeking input from students and teachers and allowing them to test out technologies before you make a final purchase will improve adoption. And what does improved technology adoption lead to, class? Ultimately, increased information retention, improved test scores and realization of the tool’s ultimate goal and promise.
  7. Does it match or enhance the curriculum? Technology purchases should support curriculum goals, not the other way around. It’s easier to validate funding for tools and technologies with a strong instructional focus or application, and they give you a better return on your technology investment, too.
  8. Does it meet access and compliance requirements? Schools and universities must remain compliant ad accessible to all kinds of learners and the same goes for the technology you use. Your vendor should be able to provide a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template—or VPAT—a document that outlines how the product meets each standard of Section 508 compliance. Additional compliance and accessibility laws, regulations and standards can vary between states, counties, and even districts; it’s important to keep up with all the compliance standards that apply to your institution and if it gets too overwhelming a qualified AV integrator can help.
  9. Is the tool a standalone solution? There is little worse than spending a lot of money on a big, fancy new technology solution only to find you need to spend more money on new, smaller tools to make your big one work. In addition to ensuring compatibility with existing tools and devices, make sure your first investment won’t require subsequent spending to work.
  10. Is there grant money or other creative funding available? There is no way around it: technology investments are expensive. But you might not have to bear the cost burden alone. Be sure to investigate any alternative funding options that might be available, such as discounted Internet rates through the FCC, special grants for STEM programs, industry partnerships and state and local investment organizations. If you are looking to fund a targeted project, direct funding and device or project-specific assistance may be available.

The Value of Long Lasting Ed Tech Investments

When it comes to an education technology investment, many education research organizations recommend focusing on the value of the investment—or VOI—rather than the financial return on investment—the traditional ROI measurement. That means spending smart gets you farther than spending big. A long-term, forward-looking approach to education technology investments includes taking advantage of sales, group rates and other discounts; searching out free software and apps, and; taking advantage of buy-back and rental programs. It also means not buying more new technology than you need, and not sinking money into maintaining and repairing obsolete technology that would be more cost-effective to replace. Investing in multi-purpose tools that are easy to maintain and can be shared across departments and disciplines will help make your technology and your dollars go farther. If you are curious on how you can start introducing educational technology into K-12 classrooms be sure to check out this detailed guide.

 

Next Steps

You wouldn’t buy a swimsuit without asking a friend if it looked good, and you shouldn’t have to make technology purchasing decisions alone either. Let us help you choose the education technology tool that works best for you.

Benefits of State Contract Preferred Vendors

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Save Time and Money with Preferred Vendors

If you’ve ever bought a house, planned a wedding, or organized a large corporate event, you’ve probably consulted a list of preferred vendors. Preferred vendors are service providers who have been vetted by a realtor, a wedding planner, or a venue—for example—and are recommended for superior service—and because of their partner relationships they often offer superior pricing as well. For large entities such as state and local governments, universities, or corporations, using preferred vendors has the added benefit of amplified buying power. By purchasing a large volume of goods or services from a preferred vendor—for example, laptops for every city employee or catering for every university event—the price comes down as the volume goes up.

Governmental and educational entities in the state of Arizona can realize the benefits of doing business with preferred vendors by soliciting quotes and proposals from companies through the State Purchasing Cooperative.

What Is an Arizona State Contract?

Vendors such as Level 3 Audiovisual who have Arizona State Contract numbers and are included on Arizona’s preferred vendor list have been vetted and qualified and are registered with the Arizona State Procurement Office. Based on their market research, the state feels these preferred vendors provide the most convenient, cost-effective service. They also often offer additional perks to clients who access their services through the State Procurement Office, such as dedicated service and support personnel and expedited trouble-shooting or repair timelines.

Who Uses an Arizona State Contract and Why?

The state government of Arizona as well as any Arizona political subdivision such as cities, counties, school districts, special districts, and Tribal Nations can become members of the State Purchasing Cooperative and access the State Vendor List. If your organization falls into one of these categories and is not currently utilizing preferred vendors who hold Arizona State Contracts, there are some key benefits you could be missing.

Learn more about the vetting process to qualify as a preferred vendor. 

Preferred vendors offer convenience. You could spend the time and effort researching vendors ad comparing prices or you could bypass all the work and take advantage of a list of vendors who have already been vetted and approved. You’ll also save time negotiating and drawing up contracts since preferred vendors operate under a Master Service Agreement (MSA) already approved by the state. The prices negotiated in the MSA are also almost always lower than those from outside competitors. Since preferred vendors usually provide similar goods and services to various entities under the MSA, they can leverage bulk purchasing for better value. For city and county entities such as libraries and public schools operating on fixed budgets, time and money savings really matter.

Preferred vendors are more available. Being a member of a State Purchasing Cooperative is similar to being a member of a frequent flier program or customer loyalty program: it comes with perks. Preferred vendors can offer service and support staff assigned specifically to MSA partners, faster equipment repair or replacements, and specialized, dedicated equipment. For example, if your city government office uses the same kind of laptop for every employee, a preferred vendor may keep a few of those laptops in reserve so when something breaks, it can be addressed immediately without a separate, time-consuming procurement process.

Large-scale contracts mean increased variety. Perhaps you represent a university looking to upgrade audiovisual equipment in your classrooms. Researching vendors and negotiating contracts on your own means you may have limited technology to choose from due to price limitations or equipment being backordered or otherwise unavailable. Through a State Purchasing Cooperative such as the one in Arizona, all relevant vendors will be automatically notified when you release a request for bids or proposals. You’ll have more vendors to choose from and, thanks to the power of the MSA, they’ll have a wider variety of technology to offer you.

Next Steps

If you are a government entity looking for audiovisual consultation or installation services, Level 3 Audiovisual can help. Level 3 Audiovisual is proud to be an Arizona State Contract holder included on the State Purchasing Cooperative’s approved vendor list. The Level 3 Audiovisual Arizona State Contract number is #ADSPO17-184597. If you are not currently a member of the Arizona State Purchasing Cooperative, learn more about joining today.

New Tech for Classroom Collaboration

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We, at Level 3 Audiovisual have the opportunity to work with some world class educators in various pedagogical disciplines in our pursuit to provide next generation technology solutions for higher education organizations. In 2015, several of these organizations are leading the learning technology evolution and changing the way they approach classroom technology configurations.

“Flipped Classrooms” are breaking away from the traditional teacher centric layout and shifting instruction to a learner-centered model in which class time is dedicated to exploring topics in greater depth and creating meaningful learning opportunities. With the ability to easily capture and stream live instructional content, today’s higher education leaders are depending on delivering much, and sometimes all, of their curriculum online. No longer is it just an option to take an online class, it is built into the everyday coursework and is often preferred by the next generation of college students.

Learning spaces are changing to accommodate the needs by creating a digital collaboration experience that enable teams with technology for presenting, sharing, capturing, and annotating as small teams or as one large group. Instead of a teaching station or lectern at the front of the room with several rows of front facing chairs, you may find several team huddle tables seating between 4-8 people with a shared interactive flat panel display at the end. Each huddle group is able to present and share content at their respective table/flat panel among themselves when working as teams. If the instructor wants to share content from one table to another or all others, just a few clicks of a button is all that is required.

I know that we have been talking about this BYOD thing for a while, but the game has changed again with wireless network based presentation devices and software. These gateways enable instructors, students, guests, and any device connected to the network to present audiovisual information on a shared screen. Laptops, smart phones, tablets, and pc’s can all be wirelessly connected and sharing content simultaneously in a presentation that, when coupled with an interactive touch surface – like a video wall, creates a truly collaborative experience. These systems redefine what it means to “Cut the Cord”.

Speaking of video walls, this is another new area of excitement and growth in higher education. Replacing projectors in large group rooms, digital signage, and interactive touch collaboration systems are just a few of the applications for video wall technology in higher education. Looking at one image is great, but the new norm is multiple sources of content displayed simultaneously with the ability to annotate, re-size, and interact with content with multiple peers. Lower total cost of ownership is driving these technologies into the hands of today’s educators and we will continue to see a major rise in this area.

Video conferencing continues to play a role in distance learning applications, but now the ways of connecting, streaming, recording, and reaching remote interactive audiences has simplified even further. Desktop conferencing and remote learning software allow instructors to provide video collaboration, capture, and instant publishing to online content delivery platforms for later viewing in case you could not make it live. Most modern classrooms are equipped with a dedicated PC that can be used to turn a classroom into a learning studio with global reach.

As you can see, the future of education enhancing technology is bright and continues to enable learners to consume content from anywhere at any time.

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