At TCEA, PR with Panache hosted a panel of students from Westlake High School from the Eanes ISD (TX) to discuss their perspectives on edtech. Panelists included: Riya Aggarwai, Rachel Gardner, Andrew Lee, Katie Denton, and Kevin Fang. Chris Piehler facilitated the refreshingly candid discussion. Here are some of the highlights:
- When asked what devices they used most, the answer was: many! Their school uses iPads, but the students admitted they often brought in additional personal devices, including a Surface Pro4, smart watches, laptops, and smartphones. When asked if they could consolidate this device pile, the answer was no. The students detailed the need for specific tasks that could only be done on specific difference devices.
- Favorite apps? The students listed docAS (document animation software that they found easier to import doc than Google Docs), Google Apps, Quizlet to practice for tests; and Scatter, which makes it “more fun to review than reviewing your notes.” They also like Procadamy to learn HTML and CSS; Edmodo to review content with their peers, and Kahoot for studying for tests (“it’s more fun because it’s competitive.”)
- When do they least like tech? “When tech is slow, students will become less willing to work with it.” They also mentioned that when classmates are off task on their device (playing games), they find this very distracting. They were also frustrated with the challenge of multitasking on their iPads, because switching between apps slows down their learning. They also miss a keyboard (thus the need to bring in their laptops). They also found it frustrating when teachers don’t always talk to each other to ensure they are using consistent tech to make it easier for students to turn in work (“one teacher uses Trello; another one uses Homeroom; one uses ebackpacks; so it’s hard to keep track of how to turn in assignments. I have to create a journal with notes about which teacher uses which tech.”)
- What advice would they give teachers to improve tech? First answer: talk to Mr. Hooker (a.k.a. Carl Hooker, who was honored later in the day with PR with Panache’s Thought Leadership Award). Beyond that, they would advise teachers to look up YouTube videos to see how best to use tech and to talk to the students (“they usually know more!”) “Teachers should realize how powerful tech can be.” They also said teachers need to be more aware of how easy it is for students to cheat using tech (“that smart watch on their wrist during a test is connected to the Internet!”). One said, “our school network is blocked, but kids can get around that on their phones.” The students also recommended that teachers be flexible. Just because you used a kind of tech once and it worked, that doesn’t mean they should keep using it when there are always better products coming along.
- Their advice to companies? Don’t make things only for one platform—and never underestimate the power of competitive games (“Kahoot is the best thing ever been invented.”)
It’s always great to hear from students, and this was an exceptionally impressive group!