Keep the Customer Satisfied

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Like any good organization, we need to stay in touch with our consumers—the students.

Geoffrey H. Fletcher I RECENTLY HAD the opportunity to spend some time with a teenager who goes to a school with a 1-to-1 implementation. I have been in schools with 1-to-1, talked to teachers and administrators, and looked at the results of studies done on these schools. I also have read how 1-to-1 implementations are coming under some pressure to show their value. What I haven’t seen is an extended conversation with a student, other than extracted comments like, “This is very cool,” or “I am really more engaged now, andclass is more interesting.”

I came away from my talk with the student with more insight than I can convey here. I found out quickly that I was talking to a very sophisticated education consumer. That sophistication goes far beyond the game-playing, IMing, internet-surfing, TV-watching, musiclistening activities of the typical teenage multitasker. You’ll see how far afterreading a sampling of his critiques:

  • “My math teacher tries to use technology too much. She puts stuff on the smart board and has to load it up, sometimes scroll, and then we can only see part of the problem. She should just write on the whiteboard and let it go at that. She spends too much time messing with it when we could be discussing problems. There is no advantage to using the technology in her class, especially the way she teaches.
  • “Most of my teachers lecture most of the time. I like having the laptop to take notes with, and I use my notes a lot when I study for tests or do reports.
  • “Our foreign language teachers sometimes have students record themselves on the computer. Then they send the recording file to the teacher, who can listen for correct grammar and pronunciation.”

When I asked him if the teachers put their notes up on their websites, he said the notes wouldn’t be as valuable to him if they did, other than to check his own notes against them. Writing information down, even copying things from the whiteboard, helps him“imprint” (his term) the knowledge better.“What would really be cool,” hesaid, “would be if the teachers woulddo podcasts so we could listen to themover again if we needed to.”

He does like that his teachers are using technology to communicate. All of his teachers post homework and other assignments on their websites. That helps him look at a week’s homework and balance things out so he doesn’t get overburdened on any one night. Reading messages from teachers is one of the few times he uses e-mail, but he finds it valuable, and so do his parents. His parents also like the weekly electronic newsletter that the school sends out.

When I asked him which class he likes the best and why, he answered English. “In preparation for college,” he said, “the teacher is getting us to work in small groups. That’s what he says they are doing more in college.” He likes working together with his friends to solve real problems. “We send each other links to stuff on the web, we trade documents, and then we create presentations showing the results of our research and problem solving.”

Today’s students are smart, and they know what they like and what works for them. They are our customers, and a successful business makes sure to ask its customers what is working for them and what isn’t. We need to check in with our customers more often, especially in implementations of costintensive programs such as 1-to-1. We might learn something.

—Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial Director

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.

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