At TCEA, PR with Panache hosted a panel of students from Westlake High School in the Eanes (TX) ISD 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:
What devices do they use most?
“Many!” Westlake uses iPads, but the students admitted they often bring in additional personal devices, including a Surface Pro 4, smart watches, laptops, and smartphones. When asked if they could consolidate this device pile, the answer was “no.” The students detailed the specific tasks they need to do that require different devices.
What are their favorite apps?
The students listed DocAS (document annotation software that they find easier for importing documents 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”).
What do they like least about tech?
“When tech is slow, students will become less willing to work with it.” In addition, they find it very distracting when classmates are off task on their devices (playing games). They expressed frustration with the challenges of multitasking on their iPads because switching between apps slows down their learning, and they miss having a keyboard (thus the need to bring in their laptops). It’s also frustrating, they say, when teachers don’t talk to each other to ensure they’re using consistent tech to make it easier for students to turn in work (“One teacher uses Trello, another one uses Homeroom, and another 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 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 said. They also commented that 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 student said, “Our school network is blocked, but kids can get around that on their phones.” The students also recommended that teachers should keep up to date. Just because something worked once doesn’t mean teachers should keep using that tech when there are always better products coming along.
Their advice to companies?
Don’t make things for only one platform—and never underestimate the power of competitive games (“Kahoot is the best thing ever invented!”).
It’s always great to hear from students, and this was an exceptionally impressive group!