Are you looking to pilot a new ed tech solution in your school? Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to spur innovation in education, released an eight-step ed tech pilot framework that all schools can use during the ed tech pilot process.

After noticing that there was no public resource educating school administrators and teachers on how to run an ed tech pilot test, Digital Promise set out to create their own.

District leaders, school administrators, and educators can use the free online tool “to plan and lead effective pilots” using “actionable, research-based tools and resources, and helpful tips,” according to a Digital Promise blog post.

“We’re in an age now where tech is moving so rapidly and we don’t want to just do something to do it. We want to be able to analyze results,” Todd Keruskin, assistant superintendent at Elizabeth (Pa.) Forward School District, said in the blog post.

To create the framework, Digital Promise reviewed findings from pilot studies of 15 products in 14 League of Innovative Schools districts across the country over the past three years.

Digital Promise’s EdTech Pilot Framework has eight steps that must be followed in sequential order.

  1. Identify Need: District leaders must first articulate the problem they hope to solve using ed tech. The more specific this problem is, the easier it is to determine whether a product successfully meets that need.
  2. Discover & Select: When reviewing potential products, districts must consider their IT environment, the scope of the pilot, the users’ level of experience using technology, existing research about the product, privacy features, and the available funding. Additionally, districts that involve educators in product selection see higher levels of educator engagement and technology implementation.
  3. Planning: When planning a pilot, districts must clearly articulate what they are trying to accomplish and how they will collect evidence to make an informed decision. Pilots produce the most useful results when everyone involved can answer the question, “What does success look like?”
  4. Train & Implement: Before the pilot begins, allow time to establish student accounts, orient educators to the tool’s features, and provide information about troubleshooting and support services. To encourage consistent implementation, identify a pilot coordinator to conduct weekly or biweekly check-ins with educators to gather data and encourage use.
  5. Collect Data: The ed tech pilot size dictates the types and amount of data needed from participants. Consider gathering information from educators, leaders, students, and the product itself to best understand user experiences and learning outcomes. Review academic calendars and testing schedules, so students and teachers are not overburdened by the data collection process.
  6. Analyze & Decide: Analyze pilot data to determine the extent to which the ed tech product solved your need, and whether to scale up implementation. Consider the goal, size, and complexity of the pilot when deciding how to analyze data. Districts can make the strongest claims and clearest decisions by comparing outcomes for pilot participants with those for teachers and students who did not participate.
  7. Negotiate & Purchase: When determining whether to continue or scale up product use, refer to the pilot data. Districts can leverage pilot evidence to negotiate a tailored solution (e.g., partial purchase, second round of pilots with additional users, etc.) with product developers. With open lines of communication, districts and product developers can reach mutually beneficial solutions.
  8. Summarize & Share: Increasing the amount of evidence in the ed tech marketplace benefits all districts. Pilot results are most useful when they clearly describe the users and how the ed tech tool was implemented. Sharing your results can help educators and district leaders find products that have been tested in contexts similar to their own.

For more resources, including case studies, templates, and interviews with educators who have used the framework, click here.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.