7 Digital Learning Trends

7 digital learning trends

Project Tomorrow recently released information about seven digital learning trends uncovered in their most recent Speak Up research project.

Project Tomorrow surveyed more than 514,000 educators, parents and students between October 2016 and January 2017 for this year's report.

1. Superintendents are most concerned about funding, the achievement gap and staff morale.
Asked, "What wakes superintendents up at night," 51 percent of respondents indicated it was funding; 48 percent selected achievement gap; and 43 percent went with staff morale.

Since 2010, the top six concerns have remained the same, according to the survey, though there has been some jockeying for position over time and the level of concern has intensified. Test scores was in second place in 2010 and is now in sixth place, for example, and the number of respondents choosing funding as a concern is up from 51 percent in the same year.

2. Instruction informed by data, social media and online assessments are creating positive results for students, according to administrators.
According to surveyed principals, techniques and solutions that are improving student outcomes include data-informed instruction, the use of social media to communicate with students and their parents, online assessments, multimedia within instruction, cloud software and tools, mobile devices in schools and online professional development.

CIOs and CTOs surveyed told researchers that demand is growing for online professional development, open educational resources  (OER), game-based learning environments and new learning models, such as blended, flipped and competency-based learning.

3. The most common digital content being used in the classroom is online videos and games.
When determining what makes for good digital content, teachers told researchers they looked for freshness, standards alignment, customizability, a basis in research and adjustability for reading levels.

Indicators ranked as least important include an OER label, search ranking, expertise of developer, recommendation by state department of education and the availability of a mobile app version.

4. Students are using mobile devices for teacher-directed and self-directed learning.
When directed by a teacher, students are using mobile devices to do online research, play learning games, take tests, read articles, access textbooks and watch videos their teachers have made.

On their own, they are using mobile devices to check grades, look up class information, e-mail teachers, access reminders, take notes and take pictures of their assignments.

More than half, 58 percent, of high school students are bringing their own mobile devices to school, according to the survey, and a quarter of middle school students are doing the same.

5. Teachers, administrators, students and parents do not see technology use the same way.
Administrators said motivating teachers to change practice is their biggest challenge. Parents said technology use is important to their child's success in the future, but tech use varies from teacher to teacher. Students said learning to use technology is important, but there are too many rules placed on it.

"And, students, teachers and administrators all have a different view on the role of Internet access outside of school," according to information released by the organization. "Few teachers say they regularly assign Internet-dependent homework; more principals think Internet-dependent homework is being assigned, but students say they regularly use the Internet to help with homework."

6. Students and teachers use social media for education.
Forty-five percent of surveyed teachers said they'd posted a lesson plan on Pinterest last year; 19 percent said they follow education experts or other teachers on Twitter; and 17 percent said they'd posted a question to social media for help with something in the classroom.

Eighty percent of principals said they were using social media to communicate with students and parents, and 61 percent said it was having an impact.

Only 38 percent of students said they couldn't access social media at school, down from 50 percent in 2011.

7. Parents prefer e-mail for school communication.
Parents want school communication to be convenient, given to them rather than requiring a search, personalized, timely, succinct and actionable and high-impact.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • More than two-thirds of teachers reported experiencing external indicators of change, such as using more videos in the classroom or texting with colleagues, but less than one third are using an online curriculum with students or engaging in online professional learning communities;
  • 75 percent of teachers say mobile devices improve student engagement, but only 35 percent said they improve student work quality;
  • Teachers say they are most likely to use data to do things they would do otherwise, like collaborate with other teachers or communicate with students, parents or school leaders;
  • Teachers say they are least likely to use data in ways that would change their practice, like identifying at-risk students or designing individualized learning paths;
  • 48 percent of high school students surveyed said they use the internet to help with schoolwork daily or almost daily but the same percentage of teachers said they almost never assign homework that requires internet connectivity; and
  • The kinds of support teachers were most likely to say they needed were professional development, planning time, student devices and tech support.

More information is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].