The first step to integrating technology into the K–12 classroom is figuring out which solution to integrate, given the large variety of tools available to educators. That variety comes with benefits — like the ability to align tech with district objectives and grade level — but also brings challenges.

“It’s difficult to know how to choose the appropriate digital tool or resource,” says Judi Harris, professor and Pavey Family Chair in Educational Technology at the William & Mary School of Education. “Teachers need some familiarity with the tools so that they understand the potential advantages and disadvantages.”

K–12 IT leaders should also be careful not to focus too much on technology implementation at the expense of curriculum-based learning needs. “What districts need to ask themselves is not only whether they’re going to adopt a technology, but how they’re going to adopt it,” says Royce Kimmons, associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University.

In other words, while emerging technologies may be exciting, acquiring them without proper consideration of their role in improving classroom learning will likely result in mixed student outcomes. For effective integration, educators should ask themselves, in what ways would the tech increase or support a student’s productivity and learning outcomes? How will it improve engagement?

Integrating ed tech also requires some practical know-how. “Teachers need to be comfortable and confident with the tools they ask students to use,” says Harris.