Mind the Gap
The newest Speak Up survey shows a disconnect between
student and educator views on learning that must be addressed.
"OUR NATION'S STUDENTS are a 'Digital Advance Team,' illuminating the
path for how to effectively leverage emerging technologies for teaching and
learning," states Julie Evans in a report distributed at a recent congressional
briefing, where Evans released the contents of the Speak Up 2008 survey.
Evans is CEO of Project Tomorrow, the nonprofit organization
that runs Speak Up, a yearly research project that provides feedback
from administrators, teachers, parents, and students on issues in education.
Evans came to this conclusion after reviewing the more than 335,000
responses to the latest Speak Up survey. "The technologies [students]
use in their personal lives slowly infiltrate their schoolwork," Evans notes,
"and many of these technologies have ultimately found a home in their
school day, even with their teacher."
Unfortunately, the infiltration is happening much too slowly. Students are
using technology to communicate, collaborate, and create, but most of this
activity occurs outside school. "Students consistently report they are inhibited
from effectively using computers or the internet at school," Evans writes.
Despite this frustration, students are still managing to use technology to
do their schoolwork, Evans writes: "About one-half of middle and high school
students communicate with others for schoolwork using e-mail, IM, or
text messages. Over 50 percent of [them] report that they collaborate
with their classmates through a social networking site, a
growth of 150 percent from Speak Up 2007 survey results." Yet,
school districts spend thousands of dollars trying to prevent
students from using social networking in schools.
That isn't the only disconnect between students and adults the
survey reveals. Only one-third of high school students think their
school is doing a good job preparing them for the jobs of
the future, yet a much greater number-- 56 percent--
of school principals make the same claim. As Evans
points out, "Our students' vision for learning is
dramatically different than the environment that
we are providing."
So according to their survey responses, what
do the students think we should do? To start
with: 1) Let them bring their own technologies to
school and use them; 2) create participative
learning spaces for gaming and simulations; and
3) incorporate Web 2.0 tools into daily instruction.
It is amazing what we can learn from students, even
while it is disheartening to see the gaps between student
and educator viewpoints. If we take those gaps
to heart, that's the first step to closing them.
-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial Director
This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2009 issue of THE Journal.