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Technology in Education: Why a Platform Matters

By Scott Gutowski February 20, 2020

K-12 students

If you’re like me, you’ve got dozens of apps on your smartphone – each one meeting a particular need, from your bank app to your fitness app. Some of those apps are there, but don’t get used often. What if you needed all those apps to talk to each other, to work with each other and get data from one another every day. Now imagine this multiplied across massive data sets and systems across thousands of students and staff. This, in a nutshell, is the technology problem facing almost every school or district. Too many infrequently-used point solutions and logins, at too great a cost to get things done efficiently and effectively.

Multiple applications on a smartphone

The World of Apps in K-12 Education Technology

Pick a school, a district or even a network of districts. Think about everything they do to support their programs, staff, students & families – educate, transport, feed, counsel; the list goes on. There are hundreds of needs to solve for in our schools. Having an application for every function is compounded in education because the natural tendency is to fix the problem at hand quickly (and affordably), at the teacher or department level. But going digital for every problem comes at a cost of both time and money. Most teachers aren’t happy with the slew of single systems out there and recent studies have raised district spending concerns.

Unlike our personal phones where we can simply delete unused technology, such a luxury is not possible at an institutional level (at least, not easily). Many applications maintain critical data sets that schools rely on daily and can’t easily or affordably remove. If you’re in education and use dozens of applications to get your job done but wish there was a simpler way, you know what I’m talking about. And once a system is turned on and in use, everything that goes into maintaining that application turns into technical debt for that institution. The more applications at play, the less efficient and more expensive it becomes to operate. Sadly, the numbers keep going up in education and the expense is precious time, wasted professional development resources and rising annual costs.

The Power of a Platform vs. Point Solutions for Technology in Education

There are two competing realities in almost every school or district I come across – the applications that the district ‘sanctions’ and maintains vs. the applications they ‘hear’ teachers, parents or colleagues are using. When I served as the Chief Technology Officer for Pittsburgh Public Schools, our IT team maintained over 120 applications, excluding the others we heard about in passing. And while we did our best to keep every application safe, fully operational and supported, it was virtually impossible to stay on top of everything in every office and classroom. Single point solutions are hard to maintain and leave a large majority of users confused in the end – which piece of software goes with which problem or function?

The solution – a platform, not point solutions. Build from a platform that scales to each purpose and problem. In reality, the private sector cracked this code years ago. Focus on what matters – the ‘customer’ or in this case, the ‘student’ – and make everything revolve around them and their experience. Customer or Constituent Relationship Management platforms have changed the face of IT in the business world – why can’t they do the same for education?

The power of a platform

The Platform That Grows With You: Education Cloud

To meet the needs of K-12 schools and districts, introduced Education Cloud for K-12 – a powerful set of technology solutions aimed at supporting the K-12 market in an entirely new way. The goal is simple: leverage the amazing technologies that Salesforce has built, acquired and refined in the private and nonprofit sectors to break down walls and build relationships across departments to create a 360-degree view of each and every student. And the recent launch of K-12 Architecture Kit makes it easier for schools and districts to leverage Education Cloud for K-12 to power their next program, project or process.

What differentiates Salesforce is the secure but flexible and open platform that empowers schools to build what they need (when they need it) and leverage pre-built apps that can all work together in one ecosystem. Our approach is simple. Rather than supporting needs through a collection of single unconnected applications, address those needs (in business or in education) by connecting your services through an engagement platform. Salesforce is not software. It’s a platform to connect all your systems, data sets and people – and create new efficiencies in enrollment, student management, communications, fundraising and many other uses that fit your institution’s unique needs. With an ecosystem of partners and vendors, the capabilities are virtually unlimited.

Our education team has a unique K-20 perspective that considers the learner needs along a continued trajectory of student support, insights and needs from kindergarten through college, as well as the needs to efficiently and effectively run schools. As we expand to support purposeful and impactful K-12 needs, our goal is to engage users along their journey. Finally, a platform for education with the services and offerings necessary in relation to one another – not in isolation. One that can grow with you as you expand your programs and resources to support student success – Education Cloud.

Want to learn more? Watch this webinar to dive more deeply into why platform matters. Learn how schools and districts can get from problem to solution faster with K-12 Architecture Kit.


About the Author

Scott Gutowski
Scott Gutowski is a Director of K-12 Industry Solutions team who is specifically focused on School and District Operations and Success within Obsessed with efficiency, if there is a better way to do something, Scott is focused on figuring it out and helping customers get more out of their investments, technology and time so institutions can focus on what matters – students, teachers, parents and employees. A firm believer that people always come before problems, Scott worked in both private and public education as a technical leader for the past 15+ years where he learned to listen in order to improve. Most recently, Scott served as the Chief Technology Officer at Pittsburgh Public Schools, where he and his wife are raising their two school-aged children within the city.