Honest, candid conversations with students and educators influence everything we’re building at Carousel. This process has been invaluable because, after all, if teachers (and students, of course) don’t love using Carousel, we’re not doing our jobs.
To illustrate what we mean, we’ve compiled some highlights and lessons we’ve learned from direct feedback from K-12 educators. This candid feedback has influenced many aspects of our platform’s design, including gameplay, curriculum, and our overall content strategy, among others. Please note that we’ve removed all participants’ names and their respective schools to respect their privacy and anonymity.
In October 2020, we began to pilot our version one mobile app with a high school in Aurora, Colorado. We introduced the concept of our mobile app to two of the school’s administrators — these individuals oversee SEL-related program implementation, consider new curricula and approve new products used in the classrooms. Then, went through three, roughly one-week-long phases of pilot testing:
- Phase 1: Only administrators to give us time and feedback before we dial in the details of the pilot rollout to teachers and students
- Phase 2: A “teacher-only tournament” with a small group of selected teachers from the school.
- Phase 3: Finally, each of the teachers who participated in Phase 2 invited a cohort of their students to download the app and test it out as a class.
Here’s what we learned:
Lesson #1: Students have short attention spans
“I liked the activities, but a variety of activities would be much better. I think students would be unlikely to do the same activities multiple times.”
“The content HAS TO CHANGE all the time. [Students are] not going to go back and do a lesson or activity again if it’s the same.”
“The activities were simple and easy to access, then they got more complicated, students will probably respond more to smaller activities to hook them into the larger activities.”
- SEL content on the Carousel app must be dynamic, fresh, and regularly changing — just like content on social media.
- Third-party multimedia content (i.e., videos, memes, gifs, etc.) that we include should be relevant and, ideally, corresponding with social media trends.
- We can’t expect a student to commit to a “larger activity” (aka a lesson that takes too much time) without some initial buy-in or, at least, some demonstrated interest with a shorter activity first.
Lesson #2: Representation and DE&I considerations matter to educators
“I have concerns about having the right [SEL] content for the right kids.”
“How do we avoid [students] feeling bad [or excluded]?”
“It’s important to us that we see evidence of cultural diversity in the content.”
- We should always process our SEL content strategy through a DE&I lens.
- Intentional representation in our SEL content should lend to higher student engagement.
- Competition is generally good for motivation and engagement (for some), but we should remain thoughtful about highlighting successes and avoiding making comparisons.
Lesson #3: Students have varying learning needs and are motivated by lots of different things
“I’m not sure what response to newsfeed will be for the quieter kids.”
“At times, I was too busy to keep up [with the tournament], and I think my students will find reasons not to as well.”
“The competitive energy drove me, and I think my students would be too.”
Note: For some added context, our pilot app included an Instagram-style newsfeed whereby submitted lessons were posted in a feed for others to view — intended for inspiration, community-building, etc.
- The newsfeed concept may not be as motivating as we initially thought. At least, not to all students.
- Tournaments can and should be time-bound, but some weeks are busier than others.
- Friendly competition should be integral to the gameplay of the app but, again, not exclusionary.