Avoiding the pitfalls of ineffective edtech implementations

Successful education technology implementation is only a few steps away says Nicholas Svensson, executive vice president of product development at SMART Technologies. He shares key implementation steps, considerations and best practices

Implementation is one of the most underestimated, yet crucial, steps in ensuring the effectiveness of education technology in the classroom – and education leaders will know that there’s a lot of room for error when it comes to successful implementation.
To avoid those pitfalls, there’s a series of critical steps that must be taken to ensure this process provides value-for-money by making the end user’s job easier – not more difficult.
The mark of edtech success
Despite best intentions and strategic planning, edtech implementations can, and do, fail to deliver the anticipated results – predictors include:

  • Failure to review the school’s entire edtech ecosystem – for example, buying computers without considering software licensing or network load.
  • Failing to have a complimentary change management program in place that involves all appropriate stakeholders, such as the managers and users of the technology.
  • Not critically reviewing implementation outcomes or continuously tweaking the process to specifically shape it to address unmet needs.

In my experience, there are a few critical steps that predict successful edtech implementation. The best practices required for smooth and intuitive implementation are:

  • Defining expectations and success metrics, using a single capable vendor.
  • Ensuring the voices of all stakeholders are considered prior to selecting, purchasing, installing and employing the technology.

Key implementation steps, considerations and best practices
Every decision-maker and stakeholder has a role in the implementation process and, therefore, the primary consideration of your edtech supplier should always be to understand, prioritise and deliver on the pedagogical outcomes you set out in your vision. Key to this is a shared understanding of your school’s needs so that all are familiar with the ways the technology will be utilised and how student success and desired outcomes will be measured.
A well-designed implementation must incorporate several key elements:

  • Research is required to determine the methodology for measuring success. It’s important to begin by considering what is the vision behind the edtech (pedagogical or other) – keeping in mind how the end users, for example, students and teachers, will experience and engage with the technology.
  • Clearly articulating the vision, requirements and expectations of what the technology is going to deliver is essential as it establishes realistic, unified goals and sets the program up for success in the long-run.
  • For schools, using a single vendor is important; it creates one-point of accountability and provides you with a person (or team) who can project manage the deployment of the technology, whether that be software or hardware or network infrastructure. The vendor can also provide a support system should any issues arise.
  • Ensure a proper change management process is in place – the end-users and stakeholders should be involved from the beginning so that their needs are considered throughout. This is key because, when it comes to employing the solution, this step creates a stakeholder group that’s familiar and on board with the goals and anticipated outcomes of the edtech.

Measuring success and the cost of implementation gone wrong
The root of accurately measuring implementation impact and overall success is three-fold:

  1. Decide what you want to do.
  2. Choose what criteria to be used to measure success.
  3. Decide the corresponding metrics associated with positive outcomes.

This up-front planning will highlight aspects of the implementation process that may not have been considered previously, such as data gathering, general training, and support for creating lesson plans.
When technology investments don’t result in successful adoption, the school loses money, time and the opportunity to drive better learning outcomes in students. To learn why some schools successfully transform teaching and learning with technology we partnered with researchers to initiate the global study, Teaching, Technology and Learning: Understanding the Interconnection.
According to the findings, successful schools prioritise pedagogy, software and hardware – in that order – and are supported by effective implementation planning. The real cost of ineffective technology implementations can be astronomical. A school of 500 students can avoid an additional £93,500 per year by implementing their technology effectively, based on avoiding costs of £187 per student.
Although the planning for edtech implementation may seem simple, one of the most common hiccups is the solution not being critically analysed to ensure the edtech utilisation is providing value to the end-user.
For example, a computer without a network connection still holds value in its computing abilities, however, a similar device with a network connection has much greater value and just so happens to make someone’s job much easier. Hence why the prerequisites for implementation are necessary to avoid procuring technology that does not provide a significant improvement in how the person does their work and ultimately finds success.
What the future of implementation looks like
When considering the system as a solution, it’s likely we will see more people leveraging the broader existing ecosystem and associated standards such as the cloud, networking, and multiple devices, among others. Conceivably, the natural ecosystem will be utilized for everything from lessons to grading, generating overall student advancement. Reason being: technology that offers the most seamless integration and minimises time-consuming customisation saves time and is, therefore, preferable.
From a product development standpoint, it’s important to capture the metrics and data that prove the solution is delivering results in a tangible way. edtech vendors that prioritise pedagogy and positive education outcomes will likely yield more successful implementation results than their counterparts.
Successful technology implementation requires awareness of common industry pitfalls, considering expectations, meeting needs and establishing measurement processes with a forward-thinking perspective. New technologies should be intuitive and help users accomplish their goals. This is especially true with education technology, which requires seamless classroom and lesson plan integration to ensure the technology is near invisible to both teachers and students.
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