Jason Wilmot, a senior business development manager on Microsoft's worldwide public sector team, said solution providers need to tailor their pitch to specific constituencies.
Superintendents care very much about security and privacy, Wilmot said, and want to hear about metrics that can be used to track to what extent new technology is advancing learning or improving test scores.
The top concern of district IT directors, though, is network and bandwidth, ensuring that a single wireless access point can handle as many as 90 devices in a classroom, managing devices across several platform such as iOS, Windows, Android and Chrome, and ensuring that legacy browser-based applications continue to be supported, Wilmot said.
Solution providers must talk with teachers about the best practices for creating engaging digital-oriented lesson plans and assessment, as well as how to train and coach them in the new technology given time constraints, Wilmot said. And for students, Wilmot said, VARs and MSPs must demonstrate how the technology will facilitate impactful learning outside of the classroom.
Julie Hartman, the department head of early childhood education at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., said VARs and MSPs need to be conscious of the language they're using when speaking with classroom educators, because they're not up-to-date on the latest IT lingo.
"Do not tell the faculty about 'vendors,' " Hartman urged solution providers. "They think of those people who put Fritos in machines."
Instead, Hartman said, solution providers should focus on how the technology can be customized to engage individual students and better prepare them for colleges and careers.
In order to get school districts to continually purchase and invest in new technology, Teuber said, solution providers must demonstrate how the tools prepare students for the real world and facilitate collaboration, communication, problem-solving and creativity.
"The novelty of the technology is going to wear out very quickly," Teuber said. "Those districts that are getting started don't really know what they're getting into."
When implemented properly, though, technology holds the potential to increase test scores and student engagement, according to Teuber. The increased engagement is most pronounced at the middle and high school levels, she said, since engagement typically declines as students get older and move out of elementary school.