Making Educational Innovations Successful

Mr Roshan Gandhi

Director of Strategy, City Montessori School, Lucknow

Product Manager, LIDO Learning

It’s wonderful to see the education sector booming with innovations, with 4000 educational technology companies active in India and thousands of schools engaging with new ideas every day. There is so much potential to be unleashed from all of this exciting innovation, when approached in the right way. However, one cannot fail to observe the fact that many of these innovations – despite their true potential to boost children’s learning outcomes – are deployed in such a way that they do not succeed in having an effective impact. It’s important for all innovative educators to engage with some of the possible reasons for this, to avoid making similar mistakes.

Firstly, technological innovation must be viewed as a tool that can be used to support educators in helping their students achieve better learning outcomes – not a direct fix to those learning outcomes themselves. Very few students demonstrate significant improvement without human intervention, and educational technology can never substitute for the essential role of a teacher. At best, it can empower teachers to enhance their teaching – by generating data to help them pinpoint differentiated learning levels within a class, by providing quality content that can enhance a lesson, by reducing their administrative burden to open up more time for planning lessons and improving teaching skills, or by acting as a medium through which new pedagogical practices such as flipped learning can be experimented with – but it can never replace the skilled teacher’s human touch that motivates a child to put in the effort required to improve his or her learning outcomes. Educational technology is not an end in itself, but merely a means to the greater ends of enhanced pedagogy, empowered teachers, and improved student learning outcomes – and educational leaders must recognise this.

Secondly, a discerning educational innovator wishing to enhance pedagogy through technology must carefully sift through the incredible variety of products that exist in the market to select the most appropriate ones, and must deploy them effectively. Failure to take care in this regard means that the same tool which has the potential to be of great use to teachers may also become a burden upon them. For instance, interactive white boards can be an incredibly powerful piece of classroom equipment if implemented with the correct approach, but can end up as a dangerously expensive and inconvenient white elephant if not. If their deployment is accompanied by adequate teacher training conducted in a manner that demonstrates their helpfulness for classroom practice, together with robust hardware support through which the inevitable technical failures can receive consistently rapid resolution, then they have the potential to be a success that enhances classroom teaching. Without this, however, the same classroom hardware will leave teachers frustrated and wishing that they still had a regular non-digital whiteboard, due to lack of knowledge of how to utilise them effectively and frequent technical difficulties that will render them unusable. Similarly, a well-chosen school ERP system implemented in the right way can significantly reduce teachers’ non-academic workload, but if the system is not effective then getting teachers to migrate from manual to digital administrative systems may turn into a time-consuming burden and source of resentment.

Thirdly, an educational institution wishing to implement educational innovations must work towards ensuring that the organisation’s culture is one that is open to change and development of teaching practice. This kind of culture can partly be facilitated through well-designed accountability systems – such as teachers’ promotion being linked with their active participation in training programmes combined with evidence of enacting the learning from those programmes in their classrooms – but such systems are insufficient on their own. More important is to create space, time, and incentives for teachers to collaborate, learn from one another, plan, and enjoy remaining continuously engaged with a discourse on teaching and learning, so that their passion about making a difference to children’s lives is ignited and they find themselves constantly on the lookout for new ways of enhancing their teaching for the benefit of their students. When all these factors are fully taken into consideration, educational innovations have the potential to be a success by empowering teachers to improve their students’ learning outcomes.

Mr Roshan Gandhi

Director of Strategy, City Montessori School, Lucknow

Product Manager, LIDO Learning