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Collecting Student Feedback on Edtech Tools

Incorporating student voice in edtech evaluation to gauge learning and engagement

Overview

Each year, school districts across the country invest in edtech tools and devices to create engaging learning experiences and provide personalized support for students. However, the selection, implementation, and evaluation of these tools can be a daunting task. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MA DESE) created an equity-driven edtech guide to help school leaders effectively choose and assess whether their digital investments are meeting the needs of their stakeholders and district priorities.

A crucial step in evaluating whether edtech tools are useful and beneficial to teaching and learning is collecting stakeholder input. However, stakeholder data collection is typically focused on teachers and administrators – the groups of people who usually implement the technology. More often than not, the main consumers of these digital tools – students – are not asked about their preferences and feedback on what should stay and what should go. Incorporating student voice demonstrates that schools are approaching this process from an equity lens, and ensuring that traditionally excluded groups are brought to the table for decision-making. Furthermore, schools/districts should consider whether there is representation from communities that have been historically marginalized and impacted by digital inequities, and whether subgroups such as students of color or from low-income backgrounds are being equitably engaged.

Incorporating students in the edtech evaluation process can vary based on grade level, the number of students involved, and the amount of time they are able to contribute to the process. Here are several ways that school districts can seek out student feedback around edtech tools:

  • Light involvement: Schools can create a student survey that asks students about their familiarity and engagement with specific tools, or their overall usage of technology in the classroom. Schools will need to keep students’ developmental readiness in mind and scaffold the survey accordingly. For example, they could rely more on visual cues for younger students, or possibly conduct the survey synchronously where a teacher reads the question out loud and students select individual answers on a mobile device. Schools should target diverse and equitable student perspectives, which may require accommodations and differentiated survey completion.
    • Example: Cambridge Public Schools created a student survey for their fifth graders that measures their understanding around five specific tools used districtwide. The district’s instructional technology specialists schedule time for students to complete the survey independently and then follow up within focus groups.

  • Medium involvement: School staff can conduct student focus groups, where they can dig deeper into students’ usage and understanding of technology in their classrooms. Students can be grouped intentionally or randomly to collect granular data; for example, a school may choose to conduct a focus group with multilingual learners to explore whether they have a different perspective on a specific tool. Because focus groups take more time to conduct and may require multiple facilitators, it is helpful to have a set of predetermined questions to begin with along with follow-up questions.
    • Example: KIPP MA determined six categories of technology usage in their schools and created focus group questions for each, which are also scaffolded for elementary and secondary students.

  • High involvement: School technology departments can include students at the table during the planning phases, committee meetings, or other conversations where decisions are made around edtech tools. Including student voices in the discussion can bring a different perspective to the conversation and ensure that investments made in tools are equally supporting teaching as well as learning.
    • Example: Mendon-Upton Regional School District formed a technology committee which determined the criteria that will be used to evaluate each edtech tool in the district. The committee was led by the technology director and included one high school student, one teacher, one media center specialist, and one technician. The high school student was included in every conversation and built a technology inventory database for the district.

“I think that any approach to changing education needs to take two sides into account: the teachers and the students. Any potential changes should be made to help students, as they are the purpose of the educational system. However, they also have to be made in a way that allows teachers to enjoy their job and teach kids in the best way possible. This experience has helped me understand that side of this issue – specifically with technology but also in more broad terms. On the other hand, I feel that my presence has helped the teachers around me understand the students’ perspective, which is equally important.” - Jamie Sims, Senior at Nipmuc Regional High School

[Note: Schools may already use some of these methods to engage students in a decision-making process, but it’s important to point out that collecting student feedback around edtech tools is more specifically focused on tool functionality, accessibility, engagement, and representation of students’ interests and identities.]


Strategy Resources


Student Edtech Focus Group Protocol

Cambridge Public Schools used focus groups to collect data from students around their use... Learn More

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Equity Focus

To what extent is there representation from communities that have historically been marginalized and impacted by digital inequities? Are you engaging traditionally excluded subgroups from decision-making processes? How are you specifically engaging Black, Latino, Indigenous, or other stakeholders of color? How are you engaging stakeholders from low-income backgrounds? Consider how to prioritize and elevate the perspectives and needs from the traditionally underrepresented communities you serve.