*This blog is part of a creative series offering ideas for the future of edtech—no matter how out-of-the-box or unrealistic. Vote your opinion at the bottom of the post.
What happens when edtech companies talk directly to kids?
If you learned with tech as a little kid, you probably gave feedback on products you were using by putting it in one of two categories:
ones you liked
and ones you didn't.
Your opinions become more complex as you got older. If you hated your school's typing program, it was for a reason:
you couldn't top your speed score
a game you liked had repeated glitches
What if there was a formalized way for the makers of those products to hear the concerns of kids?
Like a focus group.
Picture full classrooms or small groups of kids sharing how the products you support are impacting them, in real time.
Pro #1: Hear what gets kids going, from KIDS
Focus groups for kids can address power imbalances that often exclude them from sharing their perspectives.
In edtech, it seems like we build FOR these users, but minimize their role in the CREATION process. Some reasons for why this is are valid.
Kids probably don't have a handle on the types of learning pedagogy that suits them best.
What they can speak to is how a product makes them feel.
Focus group questions for a 1st grader could be as simple as asking them what makes them smile, frown, or use the most brainpower when they're in a product.
You can get deeper insights from an 11th grader—like how they think a tool helped them prep for a test.
Con #1: Can kid insights only go so far?
I just mentioned that kids are often an undervalued part of the creation of edtech products.
And their POV is critical to include.
However, there's also no guarantee that the answers edtech product teams collect will be robust enough to say they've collected enough actionable feedback to act on.
Pro #2: Get unfiltered feedback
Have you ever watched a student testimonial that made you feel all warm inside about the future of education?
Did you then wonder what insight never made the final cut?
Kids are notorious for not having a filter and giving some brutally honest hot takes—and we gotta love 'em for that.
There's something intriguing about knowing that no matter what answers they give you—positive or negative—you could walk away with some serious insights:
Feeling more confident to keep moving in the direction of the yeses
Seriously considering taking the no's back into the shop
Not all feedback has to be verbal. If you let kids user test products, you can not only listen to what they say in real-time but observe their eyes and body language.
Con #2: There are ethical limits to collecting feedback
Using underage participants in research studies takes serious paperwork. I'd assume similar standards would have to be upheld in a focus group for minors.
Plus, what would compensation look like?
The amount of gifts schools can receive is limited and judged on a district-by-district basis.
Making sure feedback is collected legally might not be worth the hassle for some edtech companies.
Pro #3: Students enter the focus group primed
Students can enter the advisory session with past experiences trying out an edtech product—or having incorporated it into their learning for a longer period of time.
Instead of taking session time to start navigating the product...
...kids can come prepared to share out info and continue to build upon it, letting edtech companies get even deeper insights by the end of the session.
Con #3: Outside influences can interfere with answers
We know that our mood—to some degree—impacts the way we go through our days.
I figured kids would have a harder time separating their current emotions from earlier events.
Apparently, kids have a better time compartmentalizing emotions and quickly moving past conflict.
Still, compare the following kids entering an afternoon focus group session to test out an edtech product:
Will their different days impact their results? Who knows.
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