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As in all offices and industries, your school office is likely to use different tech tools to do different jobs. That makes sense and reflects the reality of how we use tech in our daily lives too. We have loads of apps on our phones and we don’t think twice. We wouldn’t order takeaway food from TikTok any more than we would do our banking via Spotify. It’s no different in the school office either. There is no magic all-in-one solution that will cover every function (no matter what the salespeople tell us!). In this situation, how are schools to navigate the world of school tech?

We’re here to help.

This week on School Stream, we’re going back to school to learn the ins and outs of a school tech stack and see why an effective technology ecosystem with tools built for purpose is the key to success. You’ll sound like a tech expert in no time.

School Stream delivers a purposefully integrated communication system that works seamlessly with your school’s tech stack. A decade of experience and thousands of happy schools. Let us help your school communicate with families.

It all comes down to understanding how integration and technology work.

In the name of transparency and empowering our sector, customers and community, let’s talk about integration. We hear this word all the time but who among us could definitively say what it means when it comes to tech? For our purposes, integration refers to the capacity of a software product to work alongside or, with, other software effectively in an intuitive technology ecosystem. For instance, a typical tech stack in business includes a suite of products such as Xero, Microsoft Office, Adobe, Swag, Cloudfiles and a CRM database like HubSpot. Now think about the different tools you use to get the job done in your school office. Which leads us to…

Is it realistic to expect one tool to meet the diverse needs of the average school office?

There is no product in the world that can fulfil every need of a business, let alone one as complex as a school. And yet time and time again we hear from schools who have been given a bum steer when it comes to an edtech tool that promises to do it all. How did we get here?

Understanding the context

At this stage, you may well be asking the question: “Why do I need to know all this?” The answer is related to the somewhat unique position Australia occupies in the world of edtech with the sector experiencing a ‘gold rush’ with over 750 education tech vendors clamouring for our attention. While this is great news for the economy, it can spell trouble for schools that are trying to deal with tech overload in the midst of trying to assess the best tools for their school. Don’t just take our word for it though, developing an effective tech ecosystem is thought to be a Top 3 challenge facing schools.

The Myth of the magic bullet

To combat the fatigue associated with “too much tech”, many companies are now releasing “all in one” products and the results are not, as you may have predicted, always pretty. Let’s investigate what integration looks like beyond the world of edtech.

True integration in action

It goes without saying you can check your Gmail (by Google) on your iPhone (by Apple).

Many of the world’s best tech companies develop their products to work alongside or in concert with others to make sure the customer gets the best tool for the job. Data by consulting firm McKinsey & Company has found that six of the seven top companies in the world are thriving due to their embrace of integration that allows them to work seamlessly within a digital ecosystem of other products built to fulfil a particular purpose. These companies are global titans because they have been able to identify that creating integrated tools is the key to success. We’re talking about companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet (home of Google), Facebook and Alibaba.

“Rather than try and do everything themselves (which out of necessity would be a much slower process and deliver a less valuable outcome), they have taken an open ecosystem philosophy to building their businesses in line with the fast-moving external landscape.”  The leading brands using integrated technology ecosystems to thrive.

Best Practices for your school tech stack

Here are some pointers to help prompt discussion when assessing your school tech stack.

    • Have a framework for adding (and removing) tech tools.
    • Evaluate your tech tools regularly to save time and money. For example, if a new use case pops up, consider your existing tools and see if you already have a product that can do the job.
    • Ensure existing and new technology is compliant with accessibility and inclusion guidelines in your state and territory. (We wrote about this earlier in the term).
    • Check in with the capacity of your audience to adopt a new product. In the case of a school communication tool, questions to consider are:
      • Will families use it?
      • Is it easy to use for families and administration staff?
      • Is there an onboarding process and ongoing support for staff?
      • Is the platform designed and built specifically for school communication?
      • If your families are engaged and are happily using an app for communication, consider if it is feasible to migrate them to a new app. Once you have an audience engaged, adding a new tech tool to your quiver can be an uphill battle.
      • If an ‘all in one’ option is on the table, do your diligence and jump on to the App Store and Google Play for some unbiased reports of how families like using the app. It may well be the newest school tech toy on the block, but if parents don’t use it, it’s virtually worthless.

Are you ready to work with the global experts in school communication? Let’s get started.