Research | Spotlight
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10 Major Technology Trends in Education
According to the latest data, video for homework is on the rise; mobile computing is "beyond the tipping point"; and most kids don't use traditional computers to connect to the Internet at home. Those are just three of the major trends revealed in the 2013 Speak Up Survey from Project Tomorrow, which CEO Julie Evans revealed at the FETC 2014 conference last week.
The 2013 results represent more than 400,000 surveys from 9,000 schools and 2,700 districts across the country. Respondents included 325,279 students, 32,151 teachers and librarians, 39,986 parents, 4,530 district administrators and, new to this year’s survey, 1,346 community members.
1. Personal Access to Mobile Devices
According to the 2013 results, students overwhelmingly have access to personal mobile devices. “If there was any doubt in our mind that we were beyond the tipping point in terms of kids carrying a computer in their pocket, backpack or purse,” she said, “we’re there.”
Specifically, said Evans, 89 percent of high schools students have access to Internet-connected smart phones, while 50 percent of students in grades 3 through 5 have access to the same type of devices. High school student access to tablets tops out at 50 percent and laptops come in at 60 percent. In addition to personal access, the survey found about a third of students have access to a device (typically laptops or tablets) in their school.
2. Internet Connectivity
For Evans, this was an interesting set of statistics showing the ways students generally connect to the Internet when at home. According to the study, 64 percent of students surveyed identify 3G- or 4G-enabled devices as their primary means of connecting to the Internet, with another 23 percent saying they connect through an Internet-enabled TV or Wii console. When asked why traditional broadband access wasn’t their primary means of connectivity, students said there was less contention for access with other members of the family through these non-traditional devices.
3. Use of Video for Classwork and Homework
Video is another tool that has been on the rise in recent years. While her presentation focused on students, Evans noted that 46 percent of teachers are using video in in the classroom.
One-third of students are accessing video online — through their own initiative — to help with their homework. Evans called this the “Khan Academy effect.” Additionally, 23 percent of students are accessing video created by their teachers.
4. Mobile Devices for Schoolwork
According to the 2013 results, students are leveraging mobile devices both to be more efficient in their day-to-day tasks and to transform their own learning processes.
Sixty percent of students are using mobile devices for anytime research, 43 percent for educational games and 40 percent for collaboration with their peers. Thirty-three percent of students surveyed use mobile devices for reminders and alerts related to their academic lives, 24 percent for taking photos of their assignments, and 18 percent for in-class polling.
Surprisingly, said Evans, 12 percent of the students responding said they use mobile devices to text questions to their instructors while in the classroom. “I do wonder,” she added, “how many of the teachers are responding to those texts.”
5. Using Different Tools for Different Tasks
Evans admitted, with the proliferation of so many tools, it isn’t surprising students are designing “best-fit” solutions for their very specific needs.
Rather than using one or even a few platforms for various tasks, students are increasingly savvy about taking advantage of the benefits of the tools available.
“We find them using video, social media and cell phones for communications; they use e-readers for reading texts and articles; they write, take notes and do research on laptops. But,” she paused, “where does that leave tablets?”
According to Evans, tablets were the second or third choice device for completing many of the academic tasks students are faced with.
“They like the devices,” she noted, “but they are more focused on using the right tool for the task at hand,” and many times tablets don’t seem to fit.
6. Paying Attention to the Digital Footprint
Digital footprint was a new research area for the 2013 survey and, according to Evans, showed some interesting results. Sixty-four percent of high school students responding admitted to being careful about the things they post online; 39 percent said they advise friends about the content they post, with 32 percent saying they stopped interacting with friends who post inappropriate content online. Finally, 44 percent of high school students said they believe a positive digital profile is an important part of their future.
7. An increased Interest in Online Learning
This year’s Speak Up found that students who have not taken an online course are increasingly interested in the opportunity, citing a desire to have more control over their learning and believing that they will get more support from an online teacher.
Math was the subject student were most interested in taking online, with Foreign language coming in second and science a distant third.
8. Gaming is Growing, and the Gender Gap is Closed
Another interesting area for Evans was student gaming. This year’s results showed 60 percent of students using laptops as a gaming device. Cell phones and game consoles tied with 54 percent use, while tablets clocked in at 44 percent.
Of particular note is students’ interest in taking gaming technology and applying it to learning difficult concepts, as well as their interest in using games as a way to explore career opportunities. Evans also noted no gender difference in students’ interest in games, with younger girls actually showing more gaming activity than their male counterparts.
9. Social Media in Schools
Another set of questions revolved around the place of social media in the school. When showing the data for text messaging, networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and chat rooms, it was clear the the student expectations for the use of these technologies far outpaced those of administrators, teachers and parents. Administrators scored the highest among the non-student groups represented.
According to Evans, the data identify “a clear disconnect in terms of the value proposition” of these tools. “Today’s students,” she added, “are looking at social media not as a separate thing that you do occasionally but as a pervasive part of the way they are living their lives outside of school — one they want to connect with their lives inside the classroom.”
10. What Devices Belong in 'The Ultimate School?'
The final piece of data Evans shared focused on students’ ranking of the relative importance of devices in their classroom experience. Fifty-six percent of students said laptops were most important; 51 percent chose digital readers; and 48 percent selected tablets.
“This is still an evolving area,” said Evans and one She said Project Tomorrow plans to keep and eye on in the coming years. Something of interest, she added, that may not come as a surprise is that 62 percent of students want to bring their own devices.
Full results of the 2013 Speak Up will be released to survey participants Feb. 5 and will be released publicly April 8 when Evans shares the report with Congress.
Chris Riedel is a freelance writer based in Illinois. He can be reached here.