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Running a successful academy tech pilot: 8 steps

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According to a report by the Education Policy Institute, Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) spend less per pupil on running expenses and more on teaching staff and than local authority schools. What’s more, the report outlines that rolling out edtech in MATs can help overcome geographical barriers, improve efficiencies and reduce overall costs.

So, academies, particularly those forming part of a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), are often on the lookout for new tech. The problem is, knowing which tools, software and devices will work for all schools in the MAT can be tricky. 

Running a tech pilot with a willing tech vendor, however, can help assess what works and what is unfit for purpose. Here’s a step by step guide to running a successful edtech pilot:

1. Outline your process

Before launching your MAT edtech pilot, establish a process to maximise the use of the technologies. 

Schedule a pilot timetable with your participating vendor, to establish what you will use when, and in what ways. Make sure you use that time wisely. Pilots should coordinate well with academic calendars, budget discussions, and purchasing time frames. Gather input from all school stakeholders including teachers, IT staff and SLTs, and be sure to discuss it with your students, too, perhaps using Google Forms or Survey Monkey.

2. Assess needs across the trust

Don’t begin a pilot program before you have determined the pedagogical needs of both your academy and your MAT. 

New technologies can be eye-catching and exciting, but ultimately they should meet the learning needs and goals of your Trust. Think of more of the ‘ed’ than the ‘tech’. Make sure you set aside time to re-evaluate these goals and try to stay on track as much as possible.

3. Research the best edtech options 

If you’re taking the time and effort to run a tech plot, do your homework first. You need to ensure that your chosen vendor offers technologies and tools that meet all your schools’ pedagogical needs and learning outcomes. Consider:

  • The goals you want to achieve (not just with the tech itself, but trust-wide)
  • What technologies are on the market that match your schools’ goals
  • Will your IT environment across your schools support these tools? 
  • If not, ask your IT manager what can be done to improve or support it.
  • Your educators’ experience of teaching with technology — and ask if the vendor can offer training, where necessary

Whilst matching all stakeholder needs and experience will be impossible, it may be useful to keep them in mind when picking tools and devices to pilot. Those who are confident with tech could be tasked with supporting those with less experience, for example.

4. Check your infrastructure

It’s a good idea to confirm your current infrastructure can handle the additional load of your pilot. Not to mention compatibility; you want to make sure that the tech can be easily integrated in the pilot, and can support your existing teaching tools, software and browsers. 

Keeping your IT manager involved in the pilot program could be the key to success.

5. Launch!

Once you’re fully prepared and confident, it’s time to launch the pilot. Ideally this will be fully supported by IT resellers and, if possible, the tech manufacturer. Check whether it’s a service they offer.

During the launch process, it’s important to establish what a successful outcome will look like. Is it better pupil engagement? Perhaps improved exam results and raised attainment? Or is it reducing teachers’ workloads and administrative duties? Or perhaps it is a combination of goals.

Whatever they are, keep these goals (and your MAT’s pedagogical needs, as outlined in step two) in mind throughout the pilot. Make sure you have a way to measure success. 

6. Involve your students

In last year’s annual State of Technology in Education report, around 17% of teachers admitted they knew less about technology than their pupils. So, during your edtech pilot, make time to speak to the students as well as teachers, for ideas and suggestions on what works best from their perspective..

Perhaps include a student focus group in your feedback meetings. Your pupils may provide insightful and unexpected candid information about the piloted hardware or software. 

7. Gather insights and feedback

Before your pilot comes to an end, make sure you’ve gathered plenty of data. The purpose of an edtech pilot is trial and error — to find out what works for your academy and what doesn’t. If you’re part of a larger MAT, and are planning to roll out the edtech on a big scale, you should make time to troubleshoot any unexpected issues. Feedback from your teachers and other stakeholders is crucial to evaluate whether or not the new technology will benefit the whole MAT.

Give your school staff the opportunity to share feedback during the pilot, as well as at the end through discussions, surveys and evaluations.

8. Analyse and decide

Finally, work through the data. Assess the feedback gathered during and after the pilot, and discuss any budgetary or infrastructure issues. Are there any surprises? Did the edtech deliver more or less than you expected? Use all this information to decide whether the piloted edtech should be invested in.  

Promethean’s new ActivPanel Elements series is designed specifically with schools’ pedagogical needs and challenges in mind. The panels create the most natural user experiences, whilst also integrating easily with existing educational apps and software. Speak to us at Promethean if you’re interested in a tech pilot in your academy or Multi-Academy Trust. 

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