September 27, 2023

End Edtech Whiplash: Edtech Implementations That Stick

Erica Hartman
A teacher helps a student

As a former teacher, parent, and technology leader, I am always looking at edtech from multiple lenses. I strongly feel teachers, students, and caregivers (in addition to school leaders) should play an integral role in choosing which edtech solutions should be purchased and implemented.

The three year rule

Simply put, each product in your district’s tech stack should make the user say, “I cannot teach, plan, learn, assess, etc. without this.” But this requires us to ensure end users receive sufficient time and support to become proficient enough to see results. 

In my experience, that takes, at minimum, three years. The first year is always consumed by implementation and onboarding. Year two involves leveling up and using advanced features. It is not until the third year that most edtech tools are being used comfortably, confidently, and with fidelity. So, if you’re looking for results, year three is where you need to look. 

But don’t fall into the trap of automatically seeking out something new after your three years of implementation. In the words of the great and powerful Taylor Swift, “Will you still want me when I'm nothing new?” The answer should be: Yes! 

Why do we constantly switch up solutions on teachers and students? If we’re switching merely because there is something new and shiny on the market, then we’re switching for the wrong reasons.

If the solution is ineffective or difficult to use, we need to get to the root of why before eliminating it, as the same issue can follow us with a new product. As you’re investigating, ask your team: Do your teachers need more support? What, if anything, was working that you’d want in a different solution?

Steps to determine what works

Think about a few initiatives your school, district, or organization recently implemented. Which ones went really well and which ones struggled? What were some of the key differences between the ones that were successful and the ones that were not?

You’re likely seeing a trend in the initiatives that did well versus the ones that struggled. Strong initiatives are driven by smart implementation. These implementations involve every stakeholder from the beginning, are guided by a clear problem and solution framework, and are accompanied by a solid product that is best aligned to meet your needs. 

Here are 10 steps to make your edtech implementations stick, be successful, and include and engage all end users:

  1. Know what you’re solving for: Does this solution align with district or school strategic goals? How do you want your students to learn?
  1. Timing and capacity are everything: What are the ideal conditions? One of the most critical components of leading a successful education initiative is ensuring a wide group of education stakeholders is involved in the early stages so there can be healthy discussion around needs and priorities. One of the first steps in identifying district priorities is through conducting an inventory and vetting the current initiatives taking place in the district. Central office administrators, building administrators, counselors, and teachers will have different perspectives, as well as students and caregivers. 
  1. Audit your current platforms: Do you need another platform? Are your teachers utilizing all existing features and functionalities? What is the level of platform awareness? How are you selling existing solutions to end users?
  1. Create an edtech purchasing rubric: A purchasing rubric can help guide your decision-making and ensure you’re ticking all the boxes you need to.
  1. Develop a procurement panel: Are all end users included in purchasing decisions? Who will pilot products? How will you collect feedback?
  1. Feel for vendor “partner” vibes: Does your vendor surround you with a system of support? Are they responsive? Are they keeping you apprised of features, a road map, usage trends, and synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities? Your journey as a customer should begin at the point of purchase, not the end.
  1. Determine if the solution is vetted: Does the solution have industry standard certifications in student data privacy, security, and learning efficacy? Can vendors provide references?
  1. Develop a way to measure ROI/efficacy: A holistic approach to measuring usage should include analytics, as well as student, teacher, and caregiver focus groups. If usage is low, why? Ask questions.
  1. Create an implementation plan: Let's pretend it's next year and our implementation failed. What are the most likely reasons? This is a simple exercise that helps everyone identify potential obstacles and their responsibilities toward making the plan a success.
  1. Celebrate success often and early: Celebrate usage and share exemplars, as well as small wins and feature applications. By doing so, educators can build enthusiasm for edtech adoption and maintain momentum.

The journey to improve education through technology is not about constantly seeking novelty, but rather making well-informed decisions, supporting educators, and ensuring edtech solutions genuinely benefit teaching and learning. 

With these best practices in place, we can strive to end edtech whiplash and create sustainable and impactful implementations that truly meet the needs of all stakeholders. Let's work together to empower educators and students with the right tools for meaningful educational experiences in the digital age.

GoGuardian: creating effective learning environments for all

In the vast sea of edtech tools, the GoGuardian suite of products - Teacher, Admin, and Beacon - is an innovation that helps shape learning environments tailored to the unique needs of today’s students, teachers, and school districts. Our comprehensive ecosystem empowers educators, administrators, and caregivers to collaboratively mold the educational landscape for K-12 learners. 

By offering tools that seamlessly align with district goals, promote strategic implementation, and provide robust support, GoGuardian emerges as a true partner in the pursuit of educational advancement. By unifying filtering, classroom engagement, and school mental health tools into a single suite, GoGuardian helps maximize learning potential.