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Failure to launch? The challenges in implementing education technology

Mark Chambers, CEO of Naace, the association for education technology, discusses technology in learning and how to overcome the challenges of implementation.

Technology has permeated almost every aspect of modern life: how we work, how we communicate and how we manage day-to-day tasks. So it’s no surprise that we’re also using technology to revolutionise the ways in which we learn new things, all the way from early schooling to professional development. 

But while there are numerous benefits to this form of learning for people of all ages, implementing the technology can pose several challenges.

Adopting the latest innovations in education technology is understandably tempting – there are always new developments that promise to revolutionise learning. But there are three key challenges that must be addressed in implementing any new form of education technology: budget, infrastructure and training. 

Finding the funding 

Budgets are currently being squeezed, stretched and contracted across every sector. Because of this, schools and other educational institutions have to plan their spending even more strategically; impulse investments that have no real benefit are essentially pouring vital funds down the drain. Schools cannot afford to be profligate. The main way to address this is through a cost-benefit or impact analysis, which will help a school determine, in a granular way, what it needs against what it wants to achieve, allowing for a more informed purchasing process. Some of the questions that should be asked are: 

  • What are we trying to achieve? (For example, improving the learning environment, boosting results, or the ability to teach specific skills)
  • Are there already resources or systems in place that we can use? (For example, you don’t need to replace books with e-readers just for the sake of it!)
  • Is this a short or long-term solution? Over what length of time can I expect a return on my investment before I might have to invest again to sustain the improvement? 

When purchasing new technology, the most important thing is to think long term. The expense may be off-putting in the short term, but in the long run, you will benefit from a higher-quality product, and the total cost of ownership will offer more than parity. 

Strong foundations 

One of the main things that people forget to consider when purchasing education technology is the capability of their infrastructure. A disappointingly common example, in too many schools, we’ve seen is an exciting new investment in tablets go to waste, as the school didn’t have the wi-fi connectivity to support these devices in the classroom. Weaknesses and imperfections in infrastructure can dramatically reduce effectiveness and leave investments under-utilised and gathering dust. This includes everything from servers and internet access, to the availability of power and storage. 

It’s important to find ways of minimising this risk and one methodology might be to find a suitable technology partner for your specific needs, who can visit your premises and review the infrastructure in place so that they can advise you whether your new investments will work the way you want them to in practice. Make sure that this is included with any package you purchase from a supplier, as well as their installation costs. Encourage them to indemnify their advice; this may well increase your costs, but minimise your risk. 

Training for success 

Another issue is in training and continuing professional development. People using technology to teach must have a certain level of competence and, perhaps even more importantly, confidence with the devices or software they are using. So it’s crucial to make sure that you have an in-house specialist comfortable with the technology, or that your supplier is also willing to offer training and ongoing support directly or through a specialist third party. Schools are beginning to see the benefits of collaborative training between teachers and technology support staff, but although there are examples of best practice out there, this is still in its infancy and needs encouraging and promoting. 

Learning institutions must establish a good idea of what they want from technology, and how any spending compares with investment in other areas. Any new project should be considered carefully, and this requires lateral thinking to evaluate the need, cost, benefit and risk of the proposed technology investment.

For more information



Simon Hallam   27/02/2017 at 07:19

Mark, There is another key factor that all too many technology initiatives within schools fail to consider: the simple fact that the majority of teachers are not early adopters of technology. What this translates into is there being a smaller number of "keen beans" who embrace the introduction of new tech (and its accompanying new methods) whilst the remainder sit on the sidelines and wait to see what happens. In my experience, this majority of teachers don't need to hear how advanced, sophisticated or powerful the new technology is; they need to see how straightforward, and how they can use it in simple ways to improve the teaching and learning in their classrooms. Often those who are driving the initiatives, whether school leadership, those managing the IT services or even the suppliers of the technology race to demonstrate the ultimate power of the system and spend too little time ensuring the basics are understood and consolidated. "Can you show me again how to log in?" is not a question to be ignored or scoffed at. Just my thoughts. "Simple" Simon

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