When Students Have a Say in Educational Innovation: A Conversation with Ela Joshi

April 11, 2024 | By Hannah Kumbroch

Child with education and technology

The LEARN Network’s Ela Joshi sat down with host of The SRI Homeroom podcast Kori Hamilton Biagas to break down the nuanced world of developing and scaling evidence-based products and practices, emphasizing the vital role of student input. Joshi argues that the need for students’ voices—and a dedication to understanding and serving their unique needs—starts in the development phase:

“The more that we can have students share their real, day-to-day experiences—students from a range of backgrounds, the real students that are going to be using these products—the more that we can make sure that these tools are actually helping them and meeting them where they’re at.”

This integration of student voice might include user testing or focus groups—asking questions like, “What worked for you?”, “What was confusing about this app?”, and “Why didn’t you find this button?”

Developers can also embed flexibility in the product design, promoting smoother integration into a wide variety of classrooms with diverse student needs. Joshi says that researchers are seeing more and more user testing and student input in the process of product development.

But the need for student input extends beyond product development and creation. Joshi goes on to emphasize the importance of involving students in the product procurement process at the school and district level:

“If… we care about what students’ experiences are, I think we should try and increase their own voice and input into the products that ultimately, they are going to be using and that need to work for them.”

Involving students in the procurement process seems like a natural step. Students are self-aware, highly technologically competent, and carry unique experiences and perspectives on learning, including the challenges faced during and after the COVID-19 pandemic—a relevant focus for developers aiming to address post-pandemic learning loss.

Listen to the full conversation to hear more about Joshi’s vision for a more inclusive, student-centered approach to education:

Access a transcript of the episode here.

Tags: Access and equity Evidence-based Innovation Needs assessment Procurement Research & Developers Transition