Visualising the result of any EdTech implementation is an essential part of realising your goals – and having a robust digital strategy will guide you through the detail and the various steps to achieve them. But let’s do a bit of pre-planning before you get to that point and outline an overview of the process.
Here are six things for senior leaders to consider…
1. Initial pointers. Firstly, gain an understanding of where technology has the potential to be effective – whether that is helping educators fulfill a need, saving time or introducing the creative potential for future developments. Effective change will only happen with everyone on board, so empowering your middle leaders, staff and students to contribute their thoughts and ideas is worthwhile. Not only will it give you a broad steer on what is needed and a starting point to work from, but you will gain that all-important buy-in and investment that comes when people feel they are being included and that their contribution counts.
2. Involve all stakeholders. As leaders building a school-wide digital vision, you will need to ensure that all the stakeholders with expertise on the various facets of your proposed implementation are seated at the discussion table with you. For example, will there be enough internet bandwidth and storage to run the new solution? Your IT manager knows. Will it blow the IT budget for the next year? Your Finance Director has the details – you get the picture. You will be able to progress much faster with everyone on board, so never assume and aim to include everyone from the start.
3. Work within your digital strategy. Align specific staff with relevant experience to lead on various strands. Sharing the load not only makes things easier and ensures that people with the appropriate knowledge and expertise are in the right areas but it also provides valuable CPD opportunities.
In addition, senior leaders will need to ensure that any implementation aligns with the school’s development plan, prioritising the areas where the school needs to focus its attention for improvement.
4. Build confidence. There is no point in having technology in place if nobody knows how to use it. Building staff and students’ confidence by providing training and subsequent opportunities to practise and build on what they have learned is crucial – not just to a successful roll-out, but to ensure that the school gets the most effective use from its investment. It’s wise to check in with staff and students regularly once your solution is in place to find out how they are getting on and whether they need more training. The danger is that if people begin to feel left behind, the solution will fall out of use. A little hand-holding can go a long way!
5. Measure the impact. Be sure to assess the impact of your new technology in the classroom – and don’t forget any measures that may be linked indirectly to it. It is highly valuable to see evidence of any gains in learning or engagement from a pedagogy perspective but knowing about the wider benefits to infrastructure, data privacy or network security is also helpful in evaluating the effectiveness of your purchase. Sharing what you learn with staff and students (as appropriate) will provide further confidence that they are part of something that is working well.
Be aware that the word ‘impact’ can sometimes be heavy with pressure, so don’t let it be a barrier to your evaluation. Not every EdTech solution has measures of impact that can be recorded as a figure and entered onto a spreadsheet. Some gains, such as saving resources or promoting well-being, are far less tangible but equally important.
6. Employ data wisely. There is a significant difference between storing data simply because it is available and using it for a specific purpose. Employing relevant data can help senior leaders decide the best ways to support interventions and enhancements within the school or MAT. The focus should be on purposeful data, rather than data for data’s sake.
A digital strategy is not a rigid set of rules that every new EdTech implementation must stick to. Each solution, the situation it is applied to, and its hoped-for impact is different, so the plan adapts and flexes with every new piece of technology the school introduces. However, the overarching aims of good communication, hearing everyone’s voices, evaluation, measurement and confidence-building remain in place as the backbone of a plan that can propel your school into more effective and impactful EdTech use.
Al Kingsley is Chair of a Multi Academy Trust in the East of England, the CEO of NetSupport, and author of “My Secret #EdTech Diary” and “My School Governance Handbook”.