The use of education technology (EdTech) in schools and colleges is a fact of life. However, the school’s role is focused on the education aspect. So how does a Head and Senior Leadership Team know how to effectively use technology and embed this across the school system, so that it is easy for schools and families to use the best products at the right time?
The DfE have published the following guidelines to help schools with their EdTech initiatives.
First of all, be clear about the specific need or priority that EdTech is aiming to address. For most schools, improving teaching and learning will be the primary driving force behind decisions to introduce all types of technology, alongside reducing workload or increasing efficiency, improving pastoral support or communication and the fulfilment of a digital vision or strategy.
Ensure you having a digital vision or strategy that is aligned or integrated with you curriculum goals and improvement plans. This ensures that the technology implemented is relevant and supports the defined goals. A strategy that looks to the future and is tailored to the needs and context of each setting is important.
Informed decision making
Key to successful implementation is informed decision-making. This can be achieved by seeking recommendations from education professionals and trusted EdTech partners and seeing how technology worked in an educational setting. Collaborative decision-making is also important for ensuring that decisions on implementing new technology are robust and considered.
Things to take into consideration when deciding to implement technology included:
- Whether the technology meets the needs of staff and / or learners
- Its alignment or integration with the infrastructure already in place
- Ease of use and accessibility including consideration of staff confidence and skills, and whether the technology is suitable for different types of learners (for example, whether it could be used across different year groups or abilities)
- Cost of implementing the technology and the budget available, including ongoing maintenance / renewal costs and maximising the use of free tools.
Piloting or trialing EdTech
Piloting allows you to explore the effectiveness, impact and potential challenges and issues ahead of technology implementation. The piloting process had parallels with implementation. Piloting is successful when it includes:
- Staff and / or learners with a range of skills and confidence are involved in testing the technology
- Utilises a ‘test’ and ‘control’ group approach
- Ring-fencing time for staff to explore and pilot new technology
- Reflects on the lessons learned from the pilot.
Planning for implementation works well when schools:
- Review the pilot data and use it to shape the wider roll-out, identifying any issues or challenges that need addressing
- Establish a clear timeline and plan for roll-out that considers staff responsibilities and timings
- Have an agreed and clear set of expectations for use.
Preparing the existing infrastructure for the new technology is an important step, particularly where whole-school systems were being introduced. This works well when:
- You undertake an infrastructure audit to assess the suitability of current technology
- You allowed time for technical staff to test the technology prior to roll-out
- You addressed the practicalities of implementing EdTech (for example, access for learners and staff)
- You addressed how new EdTech systems could be integrated with existing systems
- You considered how the EdTech could be easily accessed remotely.
Engaging users in EdTech implementations is pivotal in ensuring that technology is implemented well and users are equipped with the skills, confidence and capability to use the technology. Alongside training and support, mechanisms which are central to user engagement are:
- Communicating the vision and approach for EdTech. This includes clear messaging about its purpose, strong communication from SLT, communicating with staff at all levels and using multiple communication approaches with consistent messaging to help reinforce messages
- Senior leadership engagement and commitment. This involves demonstrating a willingness to adapt their own practices, dedicating sufficient resources and allocating appropriate staff to drive forward implementation
- Integrating EdTech within wider systems to further embed its use and support alignment with other mechanisms and processes. For example, align with qualification assessment criteria, teaching and learning, wider school systems, and changing existing school policies to align with EdTech use.
Training and support
Adopting flexible, ongoing training and support throughout implementation is critical to normalising technology use and encouraging user engagement. It is important to offer training and support opportunities that:
Were underpinned by a strong framework which considers existing professional development structures, resource allocation, the balance of technical and pedagogical support and trainer expertise
Has continuous but phased build-up of staff knowledge and confidence steadily, by starting with basic training and then providing more in-depth or intensive training as required
Use different formats that allowed users to access training via multiple means, create efficiencies in time, whilst recognising that face-to-face training remained important. Using remote approaches, bite-sized resources, and keeping the structure and content of training simple
Allowed users the time to practice and adapt to technology.
Monitoring use and effectiveness
Having gone through the above process, it is necessary to check how well the technology is being used and embedded. Primarily, this should include:
- Seeing EdTech in practice in a teaching and learning environment using approaches such as learning walks, classroom and teaching observations and work scrutiny
- Monitoring EdTech usage to understand whether technology was being used as intended. This can be via monitoring frequency of use (such as monitoring log-ins), which lessons EdTech was being used in and tracking the number of users
- Collecting frequent user feedback on the technology introduced including surveys of learners, staff and parents/carers, ongoing discussions with staff using formal or informal mechanisms, and developing impact case-studies.
However, it must be recognised it can be challenging to quantitatively measure the impact of technology implementation on learner and staff outcomes.