Why Technology Doesn’t get Implemented (And What To Do About it)

Why Technology Doesn’t get Implemented (And What To Do About it)

Recently there was an article that was passed around at BookNook about the Six Unforgivable Sins of Teacher Professional Development. One stood out to me – Trying to Flash Credentials You Don’t Really Have – basically saying “I was a teacher too.” The reason it stood out to me is that I can never say it – even though I train teachers a lot, I was never actually a teacher.

But, my team and I train somewhere around 500-1000 educators and education leaders a year. We’re becoming experts at implementing software at schools all across the country. And while most of our implementations go amazing, we see a few themes when they don’t go so well.

Because we believe in technology and the power it can have to help educators and students, we want to share with you the biggest ways we see technology fail in schools – and then we’ll talk about ways to prevent this from happening so that the technology your school just purchased gets great use!

IT Problems
I must say, IT gets a bad rap. Their job is to keep everything secure and humming along. So, every time you introduce something new into their arsenal, they have to make sure that it fits with everything in your current tech stack. And, they’re not bad at doing this – the average large district has over 700 technology applications in use! IT works hard to get this up and running and compliant.

But, to get all of this done, one of the first things that school leaders need to do with new technology is tell IT. File a ticket, remind them, email them, call them – all of these things are needed to get the application ready for use on day one. This is often an afterthought – because educators are excited about getting the technology to help their students.

To solve this, send an email or file a ticket as soon as you buy the software. Don’t wait to even schedule the PD, get the ticket in the system right away. If the company that you bought the software is really awesome (like BookNook #shamelessplug), then they’ll even follow up with IT for you and tell you what to say. This way, you can be in the process of getting all the checks done and installation taken care of so you have ample time to test before the big launch day.

No Carrots, No Sticks (Hint: Don’t use sticks)
Teachers have a lot on their plate. Like, a lot. A lot a lot. We all know this, yet they still get more placed on their plate each year. And it’s tough! So, when brand new technology is rolled out, it can be very hard for them to think about adding it into their daily or weekly flow, even if the data behind the technology shows meaningful progress for students.

People (not just teachers, but everyone) need a reason to change their flow. There needs to be either an incentive (a carrot) for using or a consequence (a stick) for not using the application. We’re a much bigger fan of carrots than sticks here at BookNook – just look at our game Feed the Animals – where you have to feed the rabbit carrots.

One of the things that we do is contests – they’re relatively easy to run, but they’re focused on getting teachers to read with their kids. We love those kinds of contests. Building and District leadership can do this too – for example, setting the culture of using 2 minutes at the beginning of staff meetings to recognize teachers who are implementing new programs well. Give out a few gift cards for the best users. Celebrate them! They’re helping students out anyways, so they should be celebrated! And these don’t have to be expensive. But a little appreciation and public complimenting can go a long way.

Lack of Teacher Buy In
This is probably the most “well, duh” issue, but it’s often still overlooked. If teachers aren’t bought in that this will help their day, or help their students, then they are not going to implement technology. We find this is one of the largest misses by School Administration in getting teachers to use the software that you’ve just purchased for your school.

The best way to combat this is to start early. Tell your teachers that you’re going to try something early on. If it’s going to be live in the new year, let them know before they go away for the summer. If you’re starting after winter break, let them know the change is coming in November. Get everything ready early so that you can ease teachers into the new software.

But don’t stop there! You have to show the benefits. Get as much material from the company producing the software (they should have this for you) and show your teachers what the data shows, why they should be using the software, how it will make their life and/or day easier or benefit your students.

Finally, you should find one champion within your staff to be the person to lead on the new technology. We find that one teacher who can talk about the benefits of new technology among their peers goes a long way inside the building.  They can be an internal promoter for your other teachers, and show how they’re using the technology to their and/or their students’ benefits. Finding this person early is going to be key, because you’ll have to sell them on being the advocate and also showing them the benefits of using this awesome new technology.

Finding Success
Look for people who are supposed to help you find success with any company that you choose to buy technology from. Ask hard questions about the support you will receive and how much engagement you get with the company after you’ve made the purchase. Here’s a list of example questions that you should ask while you’re purchasing technology about how you’ll be supported in implementing this technology:

  • How do you support me in making sure there is adoption across my staff?
  • How long is the training for my staff and do you have retrainings?
  • What kind of support do you provide for technical issues?
  • How do you recommend we track success with your product?

Making sure that technology has gone through IT, has promoters within your staff, and has a culture of being incentivized are all ways to make sure that technology is implemented in your school and ensure that you get the maximum return on investment in your purchase.

So my question is, for a non-teacher, how did I do?

RELEASE: BookNook and Young Authors Publishing announce new partnership to get diverse content in the hands of thousands of students

OKLAND, Calif. and ATLANTA, Ga. — Young Authors Publishing and BookNook, organizations focused on furthering the potential of students across the United States today announced a new partnership that will allow stories written by diverse young authors to be distributed to thousands of students daily on the BookNook platform.

By partnering, Young Authors Publishing is gaining a new digital distribution channel that increases its reach significantly, and BookNook will increase the quality and diversity of texts in the BookNook text library.

“This new partnership allows us to live deeper into our core vision of believing that all kids are story-worthy,” said Leah Hernandez, founder of Young Authors Publishing. “We want students across the country to be reflected in the books they read and to know that they too can be storytellers.”

“There is a dearth of good books that reflect the diverse communities in America. One of our values as a company is ‘We are Our Community’ – where our technology and our curriculum reflect the communities in which we serve. This partnership allows us to further our reach into our communities because these stories actually reflect many of the populations we serve, and we couldn’t be more excited about the potential of distributing these books to the thousands of students who read BookNook daily.” said Michael Lombardo, Founder and CEO of BookNook.

The new titles from Young Authors Publishing, [If I Were President, The Helpful Duo, A Day Inside and Never Give Up ], are written by students through an 8-week Experience Program that teaches students how to write their children’s book & the fundamentals of  financial literacy. royalties from Young Authors Books go into a savings account for each young author. 

BookNook will digitize the books and write scaffolded and rigorous comprehension and vocabulary lessons, and then load them into their platform where they can be accessed by the thousands of students who use BookNook in school and after school each day.

About BookNook
Based in Oakland, California, BookNook helps students dramatically accelerate their reading progress with a collaborative and adaptive digital platform for K-8 reading and language.

About Young Authors Publishing
Young Authors Publishing is a not-for-profit children’s book publisher that exists to share the stories of children, many who live in undeserved communities. We believe that  all kids are story worthy, and we make it our mission to share those stories.

Press Contact:
Nate Strong, nate@booknooklearning.com

Diversifying the Literary Canon of Children’s Books

Diversifying the Literary Canon of Children’s Books

There’s a constant need to address diversity in literature, specifically in children’s books. During their most impressionable years, it’s important that children are able to see reflections of themselves throughout their environments, which, when taking a holistic approach, includes the literature they consume. However, until recently, there has been a stark contrast in the representation of marginalized characters in stories compared to the demographics of their readers. Not only does this lack of inclusivity negatively affect the worldview of young readers, it systematically catapults them into reducing their self worth, as their mere existence is deemed “unimportant” enough for adequate representation. 

According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), only 9% of children’s books published in 2017 contained African or African American characters. While this is an improvement from the 5% in 2014, the numbers remain disproportionately low. Not only is the representation lacking, but there is another pressing issue equally as important: the vast majority of books containing marginalized characters are not written by marginalized authors.

Regardless of genre, when referencing diversity, we rely on the validity of children’s books to accurately represent the characters they contain, as a means of creating authentic, genuine stories. However, this is an exceptionally difficult task when the authors of said books do not share the experiences of their characters. When addressing diversity in literature, the need for genuine experiences is at an all time high. Children should be accurately represented in literature through the lenses of their own experiences, and not through the perceptions of others on how those experiences affect said communities. This is why the newly-formed partnership between Young Authors Publishing and BookNook, two organizations focused on diversifying children’s literature, as well as making it accessible for children everywhere, is yet another step in the right direction. 

Young Authors Publishing is a not-for-profit children’s book publisher in Atlanta, GA that exists to share the stories of children, by children, many of who live in underserved communities. For their 2019 cohort, Young Authors published 13 children’s books that not only accurately depicted the experiences of young African American men, but were also written by them as well. Their books include a range of topics from science and bullying to politics and grief, gifting children the ability to choose literature that best interests them, outside of the most generalized topics many, if not all, black books contain. Young Authors Publishings’ partnership with BookNook makes diverse literature accessible to thousands of children.

Based in Oakland, California, BookNook helps students dramatically accelerate their reading progress with a collaborative and adaptive digital platform for K-8 reading and language. Through this partnership, BookNook will digitize all 13 books and use them to develop rigorous comprehension and vocabulary curriculum for thousands of students who use the platform both during and after school each day. The diversity of this literature will not only provide students with a peak into the lives of others, but will also broaden their exposure to experiences outside of their own. This inclusivity is a large step in broadening the literary canon of children’s literature.

“This new partnership allows us to live deeper into our core vision of believing that all kids are story-worthy,” said Leah Hernandez, founder of Young Authors Publishing. “We want students across the country to see more students who are like them and know that they too can be storytellers.”

“There is a dearth of good books that reflect the diverse communities in America. One of our values as a company is ‘We are Our Community’ – where our technology and our curriculum reflect the communities in which we serve. This partnership allows us to further our reach into our communities because these stories actually reflect many of the populations we serve, and we couldn’t be more excited about the potential of distributing these books to the thousands of students who read BookNook daily.” said Michael Lombardo, Founder and CEO of BookNook.

Read the full press release about our new partnership here.

BookNook Wins MIT Competition for Digital Research in Education

BookNook Wins MIT Competition for Digital Research in Education

We are thrilled to share that the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has selected BookNook for its second round of groundbreaking social science research projects. The full press announcement is here.

With our selection comes both a financial grant and technical assistance to help us work with one of our strongest implementation partners, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, to plan a rigorous randomized control trial research (RCT) project for the 2020-21 school year.

As a dual bottom line company, we are committed to ensuring that our programs don’t just delight students and help make teachers’ lives easier–we want to see that they are driving significant reading improvement for students.

While we are excited to have seen such a large effect size in the quasi-experimental design study we released in the spring, RCT is the ‘gold standard’ in social science research and will help us to better understand how students are benefiting from their time using BookNook.

We are grateful to the JPAL team at MIT for selecting us, and to BGC Greater Houston for signing on as our partner for this research–and most of all for our students, whose effort and engagement with our platform are what make all of this possible!

Read the release from MIT here.

University study shows BookNook students make significant improvements!

University study shows BookNook students make significant improvements!

The study.

Last fall we engaged Dr. Jing Liu, Ph. D, a Postdoctoral Research Associate, at the Brown University School of Education to complete an independent study on the effectiveness of BookNook used with students at five of our partner elementary schools.

When we compared BookNook students to their peers, the BookNook students made significantly more improvements in reading over the course of the school year. One school even gained almost 13 percentage points on their standardized test. What does this mean for educators?

The results of the study indicate that BookNook is an effective tool in supporting the mastery of literacy for elementary students

“When we looked at all BookNook students together across the schools, there was a positive effect with a magnitude of 1.8 standard deviations.”​

In simple terms this means BookNook is taking kids above and beyond the average. When implemented effectively, BookNook fosters measurable success in reading outcomes among early readers.

The modern education system is all about added value: added value of a program, an intervention, a teacher. The results of Dr. Liu’s study indicate that BookNook is an effective tool in supporting the mastery of literacy for elementary students. Our students, who began significantly behind their peers, made sizable strides toward literacy mastery.

Download the report to learn why BookNook is quickly becoming a favorite guided reading solution for schools and non-profit programs!


Download the Report

The findings.

First let’s look at the individual schools. Of the five schools included in our study, three showed positive effects and were statistically significant! Jing’s results show BookNook helped children from School II gain almost four full points on their standardized tests, equivalent to 13 percentage points. Meanwhile, our two KRR schools showed a similar growth of almost twelve points, equivalent to 8.6 percentage points of their standardized test.

When we looked at all BookNook students together across the schools, there was a positive effect with a magnitude of 1.8 standard deviations. This means, on average, BookNook helped students gain a letter grade in their ELA standardized assessments.

While two schools did not show the same positive gains, we are concerned about their results, but not discouraged. In School I, the BookNook results did not show statistical significance, or even close to the .05 threshold, meanwhile, the other interventions used showed a negative influence that was statistically significant. This would indicate to us that there might have been some implementation issues that should have been addressed, but the results should not discourage us from promoting our product. There is a similar case for School III. Perhaps even more exciting than our individual school results are the results of the combined schools test.

In statistics, increasing the population of a study increases the weight of the results. If you think about an experiment, the more times you do the experiment and get the same result, the more you can trust that the independent and dependent variables are related. Therefore, Dr. Liu combined the smaller populations of the five schools to simulate the results of one large population. Because the schools used different assessments, he standardized them to create comparable results and they show that BookNook improved test scores across the schools by almost two whole standard deviations! But what does that actually mean in real terms, well…

The mean score is a fancy way of saying the average. Standard deviations are ways of relating all the observations that create an average to each other. The classic example is to think of the bell curve (a normal distribution). The majority of observations fall under the bell, and the odd balls, the very high or very low observations fall further away. One standard deviation away from the average (mean) captures the majority of all observations (68% to be exact), two standard deviations captures 95% of all observations, three captures 99%.

Let’s look at an example. If the average score on a literacy test is 75 and I know that 68% of all test scores fell between a 70% and an 80%, that would mean one standard deviation from the mean was five percentage points. If a BookNook student took that test, they would score 1.8 standard deviations from the mean, a score of 84%. As Dr. Liu says, 1.8 standard deviations is a “gigantic effect size,” and a phenomenal indicator that we are improving students’ literacy skills. In even simpler terms, these results indicate we are helping kids get results well beyond the average of their peers.

Now we recognize that this coefficient is not statistically significant at the .05 degree most statisticians would like for the full stamp of approval, but we are statistically significant to the .1 degree. In the words of my old professor Dr. Rebecca Maynard, yes 90% is not the 95% convention, but it would be pretty foolish not to think those findings have impacts worth pursuing.

The final point we want to highlight from this study are the students. In our study Dr. Liu found that BookNook students on average “are academically much weaker than their peers.” Our mission at BookNook is to serve any student who is struggling in their literacy development, but our primary goal is to help those with the greatest need. These results suggest we are doing just that!

These results demonstrate an incredibly promising future for BookNook. As we improve our platform by incorporating other best practices as well as improve the training and development processes of reading guides, we believe these results will continue to improve. This is incredibly exciting news for the team because it means our platform is making real changes in our students.


Why did we want a study?

At BookNook, we believe that through our platform we can provide educators a tool that amplifies their skills and meets students at their individual level. To make sure we are providing a tool that is truly effective we want to incorporate and reflect evidence-based practices as much as possible. By funding a third-party evaluation of our own platform, we want to demonstrate that we are true to these values and transparent about the model we promote.

Making sense of statistical jargon.

Unfortunately for researchers (and educators), education does not happen in a vacuum. Children are all unique and they do not live in petri dishes. It is therefore very hard to do that traditional science experiment where we can control everything except our one variable, BookNook.

Instead, researchers must use lots of fun statistical techniques to isolate the real influence of interventions in our kids’ lives. In his report, Jing Liu used a common method of the OLS regression model to calculate the influence BookNook had on the students in the study compared to other variables. Put most basically, a regression model takes all the independent variables represented by a child, like sex, race, socio-economic background, attendance, and BookNook; and compares their influence on the dependent variable, for us a test score.

The equation might look like this:

Student’s test score = influence of age + influence of sex + influence of BookNook + influence of attendance

Within these models there are two very important qualifiers to each independent variable: effect size and statistical significance. Effect size is the magnitude of influence one independent variable has compared to others. Through effect size, the model is trying to tell a story, explain what exactly are the factors within an outcome and which are the most important. From our study we wanted to determine first, if BookNook had a positive or negative influence on student reading scores and second, to what degree.

In science jargon, statistical significance is the degree to which we believe the results did not happen by chance, the degree to which we believe it is safe to reject the hypothesis that our independent variable would have no effect on our dependent variable. In plain English, statistical significance is the test of, do we believe that our results are accurate in explaining an outcome? Within a statistical model, every output gets tested for statistical significance, so every effect size has their own test for significance.

You will see statistical significance represented as a percentage and it will never, ever be 0%. This is because in the statistical world, there is always the possibility that if we ran this experiment, random chance could explain our results. The convention within the statistical community is that you promote results (known as a p-value) of .05 or less, meaning we are 95% sure that what we see is not due to chance. If we got a p-value of .4, that means we are 60% sure that what we are seeing not due to chance; that result holds too much uncertainty and we would say ‘our finding is not statistically significant.’ The closer your p-value gets to 0.00, the more and more confident you can be.

Putting these two things together, in an evaluation we are looking for positive effect sizes and that those effect sizes are statistically significant.