Look back into one of your family photo albums and you’ll find not everything, not everyone, but a collection of moments that says a lot about your life and stimulates memories of highs and probably some lows. We think the same way about our Data Snapshots. They miss a lot, but they capture some things too—not everything, not everyone. We hope by sharing these impressions, you’re reminded of the long way you have come this year and that you can most likely fill in the story with more memories of highs, and yes, most likely, some lows.
As a Fast Fact finale this year, we asked students a simple, open-ended question: When you think about this past year and your other years in school, did technology make this year different? If so, how? If we were looking for inspirations for DPVILS bumper stickers, some of the answers we received provide some good candidates:
Over eight hundred students (821) responded, the vast majority from Armstrong Middle School and V.I.D.A. The Snapshot this data produced is obviously most descriptive of those two schools, but we bet you’ll find the story familiar. Where it’s different, we hope you can reflect on how and why and share that with us and your colleagues.
Six hundred seventy-nine (679) students reported that the technology changed their experience with school this past year compared to previous years. Ninety-three (93) said their year was no different or things were about the same. Forty-nine (49) did not address the question. Of those reporting change, five hundred forty-nine (549—90%) said changes were for the better. Sixty-one (61—10%) said changes made their experience with school worse.
Over 800 open-ended responses is a lot to process, even when students’ answers were, for the most part, very short. Survey Monkey, our survey software, provides a simple way to view the main themes within the responses based on word frequency. The result is a snapshot in its own right, but one that leaves a lot to be interpreted. Like a Rorschach, interpretations differ by viewer. The size of any word in the image reflects its frequency compared to other words. In this instance, the analysis shows the 22 most frequently used words in students’ responses.
We completed a more detailed analysis of student responses, deriving 50 categories of reasons students cited to substantiate their view of a better or worse year. Those categories and their frequencies appear below, “better” first, “worse” next.
Of the 93 students who reported that the technology made little or no difference in their school experience this past year, only a few explained, citing one of three reasons.
For the great majority of students who expressed themselves about the year, it would be fair to say that excitement abounds. Their perceptions that the technology made things easier, faster, and more interesting; that it created opportunities to do new things, learn more, and learn differently; that their teachers were doing new things and communicating with them more; that the technology was always available and connected, providing new and helpful sources of information; that it engaged them more and deepened understanding—all, in broad, critical strokes, validate the efforts you made this year.
But there were quieter, singular voices too: “the tablets hurt my hands,” “we don’t need this technology,” “the old ways are better,” “the technology makes things too hard,” “it made me feel stupid,” “it didn’t replace anything except happiness with anger towards the tablets.” These statements remind us that on very personal levels change can be very difficult, seem unreasonable, and even threatening. These are the voices from the kids in the corners, at the back of the rooms, lost in the halls. How can we reach them too?
Next week we look at how the DPVILS teachers viewed the year.