Roundtable: powers of persuasion

How can educators get senior leaders on board with edtech? Steve Wright asks the experts


Rachel Ashmore, Head of Promethean Academy

Sophie Bailey, Host of The Edtech Podcast

Antony Mellor, Head of HE and FE at Stone Group

Ty Goddard, Co-founder of The Education Foundation and Chair of Edtech UK

Dave Kenworthy, Director of Digital Services at CoSector, University of London

Q. Why is it so essential to use persuasion to get senior leaders on board with edtech procurement and implementation?

Rachel Ashmore: Edtech is proven to be an extremely valuable investment but, in order to maximise impact and prosper from the benefits in the long term, school leaders should be engaged with procurement. Through buying into technology, school leaders are far more likely to see commitments to training, maintenance and integrating edtech use into the school’s wider strategy.

Sophie Bailey: There are a few things at play here. 

1) What gets measured gets done. A teacher or lecturer’s day-to-day life is so busy that, unless something is deemed essential, it risks falling by the wayside. 

2) Procurement is a senior-leader decision made by CEOs, headteachers, vice-chancellors, finance directors and governors. With many educational settings strapped for cash, getting the best ROI for learners is a priority, and edtech is ‘one of many’ on the budget agenda. 3) Whilst teachers and lecturers may have a spirit of adventure when it comes to personal use of technology, they may be more risk-averse when it comes to the use of edtech in the classroom, with its complex system of assessment, parental and student expectations, student and school online security, opportunity cost, and attention and behaviour management. Unless there is a work culture which accepts careful risk and experimentation, the introduction of new ideas, innovations and systems will not flourish.

Antony Mellor: When it comes to the procurement of new technology, it’s the leadership team who are in the best possible position to help drive the digital strategy. This makes leadership buy-in when it comes to creating that strategy. A good strategy can save an organisation time, money and resources.

Ty Goddard: I think it’s key and essential to any project/roll out. Without senior leadership team (SLT) buy-in and, importantly, understanding, everything is harder. Senior teams also need to be responsive to voices across their institution, and to enable innovation around technology adoption and usage. The Edtech 50 programme from the Education Foundation and Edtech UK has shown that culture change, tech adoption and planning for impact has to be led and understood by senior teams who can build trust and catalyse change.

Dave Kenworthy: At CoSector, we’ve realised the importance of engaging with both academics and university IT staff. The primary connection, though, needs to be with the academics, the educators and the learning tech professionals. To put in place systems that can really drive change in an organisation, you have to collaborate not only with end users, but also with those accountable for the positive outcomes.

Selling edtech directly into the IT departments of learning organisations can prove challenging, as the people within these departments are not always directly involved with the outcomes and influence on the end user. It’s important to engage with academic leaders because they are driven by different goals, such as student attainment or numbers.

In order to feel encouraged to get involved, leaders need to understand that the technology, system or service can in fact help them deliver on those overall goals.

Edtech procurement should always be a whole-school decision – Rachel Ashmore

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Further reading on persuasion:

Promethean State of Technology in Education Report 2019/20:

Education Foundation/Edtech UK: The Edtech 50 Schools

Sophie Bailey’s interactive presentation on digital leadership

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