My Class of Guinea Pigs

Question: Is it unethical to perform experiments on students?

Not the kind that would turn them into a comic book superhero or supervillain. Slightly less harmful but experiments all the same.

As a technology coach, it’s my job to help teachers use technology in meaningful ways in their classrooms. Sometimes that means going out and finding new apps. Sometimes that means finding new ways of using old apps. I search high and low for new websites, new software, new hardware. Everything. And it’s always changing!

I also need to put myself in the shoes of every teacher on staff (about 130 at my school). I need to try my best to think like an english teacher, a science teacher, an art teacher, a woodwork teacher. Each of these teachers is a unique snowflake, as I’ve mentioned here before. 

In my fairly short career I’ve been a maths, science, digital technology and accounting teacher but nothing else. This means the last time I was in an english or humanities classroom I was sitting at the short desk, doing my best to pass.

So how can I know whether certain techniques, apps or websites will work “in the wild”?

I turn to the people in the school who have the most current and widest experience across multiple faculties: The Students.

My class of guinea Pigs

Typically, I walk into my class and I say “Class, I have this cool idea/new app/ website but I don’t know if it really works in a real classroom or if teachers would find it handy. Can we test it out?”

Now they’re interested. Not only are they interested in the new learning they are about to undertake, but they’re interested in how we’re going to learn it.

Afterwards, we get to discuss not only the new learning, but also how it was delivered. As a result, my students are really reflecting on their learning and the method in which they’re doing it.

In the process of doing this kind of Beta testing with my class, they’ve also learned a lot of “educational lingo”.

Students say things like:

Prism Scholars Lab really allows for good collaboration

“This Self-grading Google Form allows us to get immediate feedback

“The scaffolding in these questions works really well to prepare you for the harder ones”

Students can also tell me which subject they think it works best in and why.

I’m a big believer in “pulling back the curtain” when it comes to education. If our students know a little bit about differentiation or scaffolding or bloom’s taxonomy or growth mindset, that can’t be a bad thing.

Experiment on your guinea pigs today.

p.s. I know usually my posts are gif laden. I don’t want to let you down.

guinea pig.gif




  1. I have no issue with the classroom being a ‘lab’, reminds me of the concept of what Eric Ries describes as the ‘sandbox’ ( It just concerns me in a world that is student-centred or learner-centred that you are required to be a font of impossible knowledge. I wonder if there is a possibility to develop a Digital Leaders group ( Also, one idea in regards to classes where you do not necessarily have content knowledge is using Richard Olsen’s Modern Learning Canvas ( This would allow you to identify why you are using technology in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *