10 Factors for Ed Tech Success and Failure

Participants have reached the next stage of the EdTech Genome Project, an initiative to understand why education technology works in some schools and districts but not others. Led by the Jefferson Education Exchange, a consortium with more than 100 education organizations in research, advocacy and ed tech development has published a list of 10 factors that play into success and failure of ed tech implementation.

The 10 variables identified by the consortium are:

  • Adoption plans, the processes and resources used by the school or district (or the state) to evaluate and select technology before its purchase and "full-scale implementation";

  • Competing priorities, the extent to which the district has other initiatives running--including those that are non-technical in nature;

  • Basics in place, such as hardware, software and internet access, support and financial resources;

  • Implementation plans, those processes that a district uses to deploy ed tech after it is procured--and over multiple years, including the monitoring of usage, tracking of engagement goals and measuring of effectiveness;

  • Professional development and support for teachers and staff that are running the ed tech;

  • The culture of the school and district, including the way teachers and others work together and the "set of beliefs, values, and assumptions they share";

  • The administrative support provided by the district administrators to those who are implementing the ed tech;

  • The autonomy of teachers, including how much they're involved in the decision-making for ed tech adoption and implementation;

  • Teacher beliefs about the use of technology in learning; and

  • The vision for teaching and learning with technology, and, specifically, the extent to which that vision expresses how ed tech is leveraged as a tool for supporting instruction and student outcomes.

Now each of those factors is under study by separate working groups to examine the "existing evidence to determine how these variables can best be measured." By the end of 2020, the consortium stated, it will have completed a framework to help schools understand best practices in ed tech adoption and foster more effective use of ed tech with less waste.

According to the consortium, schools and districts spend more than $13 billion on ed tech each year. Frequently, however, those investments can be "poor fits" for a given school or the implementation can be done incorrectly or without fidelity.

"We know that the effectiveness of technology in the classroom depends on a constellation of factors, from school culture to technical capacity to support from school and district leadership," said Joseph South, chief learning officer at ISTE and co-chair of the project's steering committee. "This is an important effort to understand which of those factors matter the most and how to define them--critical steps in fulfilling the promise of using technology to improve

"Now that we've brought together and achieved consensus among a diverse group of voices in education on which contextual variables merit further collaborative effort, our next step is to agree on how to measure them" added Bart Epstein, president and CEO of the Jefferson Education Exchange and research associate professor at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education and Human Development. "Once we have consistent ways to measure these variables, we can begin to collect field reports from hundreds of thousands of educators nationwide who will use common language and measures to describe how education technology is arriving to and performing in their schools."

The project is currently soliciting feedback from education stakeholders to understand the "ultimate question" each of the 10 variables should ask. That survey is open through the end of April 2020.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.