The following questions are interdependent, and presented in no particular order.
Does the education technology reduce or exacerbate teacher workload?
If the technology doesn't work, keeps breaking down, or not fit for purpose (see below), then it's likely to make the burden of workload worse rather than better.
A case in point. During a visit to a school that had invited me in to look at their education technology, I decided to type up my findings from the first morning. That took me about ten minutes, using a staffroom computer. Finding somewhere to print out the document took me another 45 minutes. No wonder hardly anyone was using the staffroom computers. In a situation like that, teachers will most likely do their admin work at home, but not out of choice, and that isn't acceptable.
Is the ed tech a white elephant?
A white elephant is something that takes a lot of time and money to maintain. In one school I joined as head of ICT and Computing, my predecessor had bought a very expensive printer. IT printed beautifully, but if anything went wrong it cost around £95 ($125) in today's money to call out an engineer. The toner cartridges cost a small fortune too. Consequently, it was kept locked in a cupboard, and to collect their printing kids (and staff) had to come back after school and get someone to open the cupboard. Needless to say, not many bothered. In terms of value for money and just about any other metric you might care to think of, the school was much better off with the much cheaper inkjet printers I bought and had installed in each computer lab.
Is the ed tech fit for purpose?
The printer issue described above is an example of technology not being fit for purpose. We usually think of fitness for purpose in terms of whether the tech is good enough to cope with the demands made on it. In this case, the tech was too good: overkill in fact. Yes, having a beautifully printed document might be nice for special occasions a few times a year, but for everyday use an ordinary inkjet was more than adequate.
Is the ed tech accessible?
Clearly, the tech should be accessible in terms of special educational needs, but more basically it also needs to be physically accessible. If you can't use a computer because the room is locked and the person with the key is on their lunch break, it's not accessible.
I solved this problem in a school I joined through the simple expedient of asking the school office to keep the keys, as the school office was open all day.
Similarly with borrowing equipment. One school I visited to evaluate their technical support had a situation in which the person in charge of lending out cameras and other equipment worked only three days a week, making it very difficult to borrow equipment at short notice. Again, I recommended that they ask the school office to hold the equipment.
Is the ed tech easy to use?
I heard of one school where the headmaster insisted that all worksheets were created using Quark. Quark is a high-end desktop publishing package used to create commercial magazines, making it completely over-the-top for producing school worksheets (see point about fitness for purpose).
If you must have a rule like this, you should also ensure that the tech is easy to use by providing templates into which teachers can drop text and graphics.
One of my rules was Freedman's 5 Minute Rule, which states that someone ought to be able to log onto a computer, do what they need to do, and print it out and save it, all within five minutes. Obviously, many jobs take much longer than 5 minutes, but the 5 Minute Rule is a useful benchmark. If it takes ten minutes to log on, 15 minutes to figure out how to do basic things like enter text and save, and then (taking the example I gave earlier) forty five minutes to find a printer, then the person's time has been well and truly wasted.
Is the ed tech well-supported?
It should be easy and quick to report faults, which ought to be rectified very quickly. If a printer stops working, for instance, it should be fixed or replaced within, I would say, a day at the longest. In fact, a solution should be provided more or less immediately if what I've just suggested is impossible. For example, perhaps the printing could be rerouted to a different printer nearby.
Is there sufficient training to ensure that the ed tech is used effectively?
One of the problems facing teachers at the Quark school (see above) is that no training was provided. Even more ordinary (and useful) programs and equipment will be better used if there's an opportunity for teachers to be trained in their use. Even if teachers know the basics and are using the facilities very well, there is always more to learn.
Is the ed tech budgeted for as part of a long-term plan?
My ideal situation of a faulty printer being replaced by a fully working one almost immediately is predicated on the assumption that a sufficient budget has been set aside for redundancy, that is having more equipment than you think you need. For example, a class set of laptops, where the maximum class size is 30, ought to be 31, to allow for something going wrong.
Is the ed tech integrated into school life?
I have visited a few schools where the technology is just a natural part of what people do, where they don't have to make a special effort or arduous arrangements to make use of it. A few walks around the school at different times will give you a good idea of whether and where technology is used as a normal part of school life.
If the school has lots of lovely technology that is either in pristine condition or locked away in cupboards, then by definition it isn't integrated into school life. The answer may lie in one of the other points covered in this article, such as fitness for purpose or accessibility.
Is data available when, where and by whom it is needed?
I firmly believe that no teacher should ever have to type out a class list, and should never have to enter the same data more than once. The data a teacher needs, whether for a particular pupil or a group, should be easily accessible by them, subject to security and data protection caveats of course.
As I said at the beginning of this article, these points are all interrelated. You can start with any one of them, and look at them in any order you like. Taken together, they should give you a very clear insight into whether your new school is getting the best bang for its buck as far as technology is concerned.