Although educational technology best practices have a significant positive impact, they are not widely and consistently practiced. Effective technology implementation in schools is complex, with hundreds of interrelated factors playing a part. A failure of just one factor can seriously impact the success of the project. For example, one commonly reported problem is insufficient Internet bandwidth to support the substantial increase in devices in a 1:1 implementation. This leads to student and teacher frustration and reduced usage levels.
Project RED has identified the nine key implementation factors (KIFs) that are linked most strongly to the education success measures.
Key Implementation Factors
(Rank Order of Predictive Strength)
- Intervention classes: Technology is integrated into every intervention class period.
- Change management leadership by principal: Leaders provide time for teacher professional learning and collaboration at least monthly.
- Online collaboration: Students use technology daily for online collaboration (games/simulations and social media).
- Core subjects: Technology is integrated into core curriculum weekly or more frequently.
- Online formative assessments: Assessments are done at least weekly.
- Student-computer ratio: Lower ratios improve outcomes.
- Virtual field trips: With more frequent use, virtual trips are more powerful. The best schools do these at least monthly.
- Search engines: Students use daily.
- Principal training: Principals are trained in teacher buy-in, best practices, and technology-transformed learning.
Substantial evidence shows that technology has a positive financial impact, but for best results, schools need to invest in the re- engineering of schools, not just technology itself. Properly implemented educational technology can be revenue-positive at all levels—federal, state, and local. Project RED respondents report that technology contributes to cost reductions and productivity improvements—the richer the technology implementation, the more positive the impact.
Finding 3: 1:1 schools employing key implementation factors outperform all schools and all other 1:1 schools.
A 1:1 student-computer ratio has a higher impact on student outcomes and financial benefits than other ratios, and the key implementation factors (KIFs) increase both benefits.
Evidence supporting the third Project RED hypothesis: Continuous access to a computing device for every student leads to increased academic achievement and financial benefits, especially when technology is properly implemented.
In general, respondents say that schools with a 1:1 student-computer ratio outperform non-1:1 schools on both academic and financial benefits.
Finding 4: The principal’s ability to lead change is critical. Change must be modeled and championed at the principal level.
The impact of a good principal has been widely documented. Good principals also contribute to distributive leadership, in which team members surrounding the principal play an important role. As shown in earlier studies, strong district leadership is also essential for successful schools. All levels of leadership are important, individually and collectively, including school boards, superintendents, and assistant superintendents for curriculum, instruction, technology, finance, and operations. Project RED analysis shows that within the school the principal is one of the most important variables across the 11 education success measures, suggesting that change leadership training for principals involved in large-scale technology implementations is of paramount importance.
Technology-transformed intervention classes are an important component in improving student outcomes. Project RED defines technology-transformed intervention classes as those where technology plays an integral role in the class. Generally every student has a computer, and the curriculum is delivered electronically. Students move at their own pace. The teacher is heavily involved but spends most of his or her time in one-on-one or small- group mode rather than lecture mode.
Project RED found that technology-transformed interventions in ELL, Title I, special education, and reading intervention are the top-model predictor of improved high-stakes test scores, dropout rate reduction, course completion, and improved discipline. No other independent variable is the top-model predictor for more than one education success measure.
This finding also illustrates the power of the student-centric approach enabled by technology, where students typically work at their own pace. Each student can take the time required to complete the course with demonstrated achievement. A few students will take longer than the traditional semester length, but not many.
Online collaboration contributes to improved graduation rates and other academic improvements. Collaboration and interaction among students have long been viewed as important factors in improving student achievement, and participation in study groups is a good predictor of success in college.
Schools must incorporate technology into daily teaching to realize the benefits. The daily use of technology in core classes correlates highly to the desirable education success measures (ESMs). Daily technology use is a top-five indicator of better discipline, better attendance, and increased college attendance.