Think You Know How Your Students Feel About Technology in School?

According to the National Association of Independent Schools’ Commission on Accreditation, twenty-first century students are qualitatively different from all students before them:


(From: NAIS Committee on Accreditation: A Guide to Becoming a School Of the Future2010)

I’ve been wondering about that assertion for some time, and had an idea earlier this fall that seemed as though it might be helpful: what if we asked students directly about their experiences with technology in school?  Perhaps instead of giving them multiple-choice sorts of limiting questions designed by adults, we actually allowed them the time and space to comment freely and at length?  There seemed a good chance that we would learn something useful about our students, their tech use, our academic culture, and perhaps countless other areas of interest that would help us to better serve the learning needs of our community.  I received permission to survey the students, about half of whom participated.   

(The school in question is a small-ish independent school with a solid tech infrastructure. It has a 1:1 laptop program, an adequate LMS, wifi everywhere, a maker space, robotics program, digital photography curriculum, computer science classes, and tech-savvy teachers).   

Here is a very brief sampling of some of the results:





And here is a curated sampling of some of the written responses to a prompt.  The responses in total are obviously more varied and often address specific issues, but these are the ones I found most surprising. 


“Some of us are not as tech savy [sic] as others”


“That i learn better with hardcopy books/handouts”


“I am not tech-savvy when it relates to editing and making videos”


“I wish they knew that not everything has to be done online”


“I wish they knew how to balance it

from student to student. Some thrive off of it

more than others and I wish there was someway [sic] to

create a classroom space that you can choose to what

extent technology aids your learning process.”


 “I think sometimes teachers assume that I know what

I’m doing on the computer and honestly I only know the

very basics of working the computer so if something

doesn’t go as expected I’m pretty lost. Essentially, I don’t

know any more about the computer than I need to

properly function with it.”


“I wish they knew how much I hate reading on a

computer and how e-textbooks are super



“I wish they knew that having access to technology does not lessen our workload.”


“I wish they knew that our generation can

be completely tech savvy when it comes to social media

and gaming but then we can also know nothing about

typing correctly (I use my pointer finger 97% of the time)

and we don’t know everything about the software’s the

teachers want us to use such as excel.”


“that I hate using my computer”

Say what you will about ed tech,  but it’s a duty of adults in education to communicate regularly and meaningfully with students about how they experience school in all of its facets. When so many students tell us that they learn more effectively when they take notes by hand or read on a hard copy, we can’t blithely dismiss that “because: 21st century.”  And some of the comments above point not so much to a problem with technology per se, but a problem with assumptions the school has made about students’ technical capabilities.  These are solvable problems, but if we’re not listening to students, how would we know where to begin?

5 thoughts on “Think You Know How Your Students Feel About Technology in School?

  1. It strikes me how many of those who talk about what youth need are completely out of touch with them.

    Aside from using surveys (which is brilliant), we also need to legitimate what teachers know through their classroom practice. Kids love paper copies of books and writing on paper for certain purposes.

    I could imagine a similar result regarding the push to collaborate and do everything in groups. The reality is many kids resent it.

    Keep up the amazing blog!


    Liked by 2 people

    1. The only person I’m aware of who’s pushing back against the mania for collaboration is Susan Cain, who happens to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Nat’l Assoc of Independent Schools’ annual conference. I’m frankly surprised that NAIS invited her; I suppose it may mark the beginning of a slow tack away from collaboration, but I also fear that she won’t really be heard by the admins who create policy and shape school cultures.


  2. Your post is a reminder not to be taken up by the zealous intent of pursuing Prensky’s bifurcation of digital ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’. Besides consolidating ageist conceptions of technology, or reinforcing and/or manufacturing intergenerational tension, it simply ignores that much digital technology has advanced thanks to the intellect and experience of older people. My own research has highlighted precisely the findings you have recorded here. Karl Maton, Sue Bennett & Lisa Kervin began working in this space a while ago. See

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for sharing the paper. High school teaching leaves precious little time for sustained research, which others (Audrey Watters and Neil Selwyn, e.g.) already do so well. I’m confined to the shallow waters of anecdote, striving toward deeper depths, but foiled always by the incessant demands of teaching. I appreciate the recommendation.

      Liked by 1 person

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