Earlier this fall, Patrick Larkin, the Assistant Superintendent for Learning at Burlington Public Schools, and Monica Brady-Myerov, Founder and CEO of Listen Current, co-taught a LearnLaunch class on how to organize a successful K-12 pilot. Check out some of their tips below!
How do you get a pilot?
- Find Teacher Advocates: Finding one teacher who loves what you’re doing is essential. You can meet teacher evangelists at education conferences, LearnLaunch classes, through friends, and on Twitter. Both Larkin and Brady-Myerov believe that engaging with the right teachers will help you get other teachers on board, and eventually get the support of the administration.
- Timing Is Important: Larkin recommends submitting a proposal about your pilot to schools right after New Year’s because it’s early enough for an administrator to include the pilot in their budgeting plans for the following year, but not too far into the spring when districts get bogged down with MCAS and other testing.
- Do Your Homework: Don’t send the same form letter to a school administrator or a teacher. Find something special about each school so that you can personalize your approach to each community.
How To Run Your Pilot
- Make it as easy as possible for teachers. Larkin stated that the number one thing he looks for when selecting technology products is whether the new product makes his teachers’ lives easier. Teachers don’t have a lot of time, so if your product seems too complicated to implement, then you’re unlikely to get your pilot proposal accepted. Be creative and make sure you are making the user experience as easy as possible for teachers.
- Create a pilot agreement/checklist. Larkin wants to know what a company will need from his school in order to run the pilot, how exactly the pilot will work, how it will help his school down the road, and what the next steps are in terms of using the product if the pilot is successful. Brady-Myerov explained that administrators and teachers will tell you what is unreasonable in your proposal. Make sure the final agreement is in writing and use the agreement to ensure that everyone understands their respective roles to ensure the pilot runs smoothly.
- Build a pilot team at the school you’re working with. After connecting with teachers, leverage your relationship with them to get other teachers at their school to use your product. A successful pilot includes a team of three to six teachers at a school. This team will become an asset for you because they will discuss the best ways to integrate your product into their curriculum.
What To Watch Out For
- Stay committed to your agreement. Both educators and entrepreneurs can fall victim to busy schedules. Make sure you prioritize your pilot agreements. If you find that your teacher advocates aren’t holding up their end of the agreement, reach out to them and find out what you can do to help make their lives easier.
- Lack of commitment from school administration: Failing to involve school administrators in the decision making process will create challenges for your teachers and your company down the road. After onboarding your team of teachers, make sure you and the school administrators are on the same page so that everyone is invested in making the pilot a success.
- Privacy issues: Every district has a different protocol for protecting student data. Make sure to discuss student privacy with your teacher teams and administrators. Transparency in terms of what your product does with student data ensures trust among all parties.
How To Evaluate Success
- Teacher Feedback: Communicate regularly with your teacher teams. As your pilot progresses, companies that communicate well gain valuable feedback on their product that can help drive and improve product development.
- Classroom Observations: When possible, visit the classrooms that are piloting your product. Helping teachers implement your product will allow you to see how successful the integration is going from their perspective. Talk with students, observe any issues that arise, and then discuss with your team how to improve your product.
- Surveys: Brady-Myerov stated that it is reasonable to do three surveys per pilot. Use these surveys to get feedback from teachers, administrators, and students. Collecting data from teacher communications, classroom observations, and surveys will give you a complete picture of how successful your pilot program is.
Want to put these thoughts into action? Come meet other educators, entrepreneurs, and investors at the 3rd annual LearnLaunch Conference next month on January 23-24! LearnLaunch is bringing together leading edtech experts to discuss what products are currently delivering on edtech’s promise. Panel topics will cover issues related to school pilots, student privacy, student data, and more. Reserve your spot before it’s too late!