How do school leaders successfully implement education technology, manage the costs, and evaluate the impact?
If school and college leaders are looking for the latest research on implementing edtech, here it is. There’s no need for schools to follow a ‘PC World’ approach …
The Department for Education have published research and analysis on the Implementation of Education Technology in Schools and Colleges (Sept. 2022).
The report is 114 pages long!
I’ve had a skim through some of the in-depth interviews with edtech experts, teachers and head teachers and share a summary here of how schools and colleges implement new edtech, discover potential opportunities and gaps in the market.
Interviews with teachers were conducted in February and March 2022 across 16 schools and 5 colleges. In light of the pandemic, key to successful implementation is informed decision-making.
There is evidence in this report the schools and colleges are using multiple sources of information.
The report is broken down into key sections:
- Research objectives
- Identify needs
- Informed decision-making
- Piloting or trialling edtech
- Edtech implementation process
- Training and support
- Monitoring use and effectiveness
- Benefits and impact of technology use, and
Rather than summarise the entire document, I’ve gone straight to where the issues I believe school leaders need help with the most.
For most schools, improving teaching and learning must be the key reason behind introducing all types of technology, whether this is “directly or indirectly, alongside reducing workload or increasing efficiency.”
Having “a digital strategy that aligned with curriculum goals” and improvement plans insured technology implement was relevant and helped the school to achieve its goals.
Highlighted in the report, some of the decisions that school leaders need to make when identifying technological needs is whether the technology meets the needs of the staff and the students first and foremost.
Secondly, the technologies alignment or integration with the infrastructure already in place. This is sometimes an Achilles’ heel for some organisations because they may have historical contracts and legacy devices.
Thirdly and in my opinion critically, how easy it is to use and how accessible the technology is when considering staff confidence and skills, and whether the technology is suitable for different types of learners.
Finally, the cost of implementing the technology and the budget available.
I recently spoke with an edtech organisation who used the phrase, “We’re not PC World!” This summed up so many poor approaches across the system which simply deliver devices and services with no support in terms of implementation or long-term training. They simple give you the ‘tech’ over the counter and you never see them again.
Edtech implementation process
One of the biggest barriers I faced as a school leader leading whole school digital strategy, was often time, budget and training. These issues face all organisations, and the most important is time for training so that any technology can successfully be implemented.
Other than a ‘PC World approach’ to training, new software or hardware must be aligned with the whole school professional development. If it’s not, it’s unlikely to have any sustainable impact.
In the research report, the stages that schools and colleges went through to implement and embed technology were varied. I’ve included a simple graphic (page 70) from the report which highlights the process that should be followed.
Monitoring use and effectiveness
This is the key part for all school leaders. Monitoring not only the cost, but the impact of the technology on standards. This includes the obvious quality assurance processes: learning walks, observations and work scrutiny. At a technical level, this should also include school leaders asking their IT support teams to monitor login data, analytics and number of users.
Most importantly, engagement from staff and students through feedback, training sessions in staff meetings and in classrooms, including regular communications with parents who are on the receiving end of many technological tools.
The report also recognises what I struggled to do too: “That it was more challenging to quantitatively measure the impact of technology implementation on learner and staff outcomes.”
For anyone who does this well, I would be keen to learn how you achieve this.
There is so much more inside this report. I would encourage all school and college leaders who have an edtech lead to use this research to guide your decision making – and your budgets.
Don’t settle for a ‘PC World’ approach …