Even the best-designed technology pilots still involve a certain amount of trial and error when it comes to ed-tech products.

Now, a new eight-step framework from Digital Promise helps educators evaluate ed-tech products for quality and effectiveness. The framework also helps school leaders share their best practices and use research-based tools to their fullest capacity.

To develop the framework, the Digital Promise team reviewed the results of pilot studies of 15 technology products in 14 League of Innovative Schools districts across the country over the past three years.

The team identified a number of common themes and steps that help school leaders plan and conduct successful product pilots.

“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 Forward School District in Pennsylvania, said in a post announcing the framework.

(Next page: The 8-step technology pilot framework)

The framework also includes a section devoted to tools and resources. Educators can review files and links focused on pilot study and product summaries.

The framework steps include:

1. Identify need: Clearly articulate the specific need or challenge your district is trying to address so you’ll be able to determine whether or not the product meets that need.

2. Discover and select: Identify and evaluate the various products in the market. Choose a product that matches your defined need and consider other factors such as student privacy features, fit with school IT system, and the skills required to implement it.

3. Planning: Clearly articulate specific pilot goals to ensure a shared vision, and identify data that will be used to determine success. Set agreements with ed-tech providers and researchers that outline roles and responsibilities, timelines, and how results will be used.

4. Train and implement: Ensure teachers have district- and/or company-provided training, technology support, and instructional coaching to enable strong implementation of the new tool.

5. Collect data: Collect quantitative and qualitative data to determine whether the pilot goals are met. Create formal opportunities (e.g., surveys, interviews, focus groups, and team meetings) for teachers and students to give feedback about the tools.

6. Analyze and decide: Analyze collected data to evaluate whether the ed-tech tool met the pilot goal(s). Consider both qualitative and quantitative data when deciding whether to purchase, continue piloting, or discontinue using the tool.

7. Negotiate and purchase: Work with the ed-tech provider to understand and negotiate the total cost of implementing the ed-tech tool. Consider ongoing costs for licensing, installation, training, and IT support.

8. Summarize and share: Summarize and share results with pilot participants in order to foster transparency and trust. Consider sharing the results externally to support other schools and districts in their ed-tech decision making.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura