Finally! Research-based proof that students use cell phones for LEARNING

2/21/2013 12:00:00 AM
A new study conducted by TRU provides a body of research which supports the idea that students use cell phones to learn, and also that schools are not acknowledging or supporting them fully, yet. This research supports the work of  innovative educators who are guiding today’s generation text and will help in the effort of getting more schools to stop fighting and start embracing student use of mobile devices for learning in school. Rather than banning, the study highlights the fact that if we meet children where they are we can leverage their use of mobile devices for powerful learning. The research supports the fact that mobile technology can inspire and engage students by letting them lead their learning and supporting them in choosing and using the devices they know, love, and prefer. The study reveals that whether allowed to use their devices in school or not, students are moving forward and using them for learning even if their school is lagging behind in embracing student-owned devices.

Kids FINALLY have a case for why they really need mobile devices to learn. The survey is the first of its kind and examines how middle school students are using mobile devices, revealing that these tools are actually helping kids learn math and science better, and increasing their confidence and motivation, despite the fact that most schools (88%) strictly forbid their use for learning.

Despite the perception by some parents and teachers that cell phones are distracting to kids, this national study proves that children deserve more credit as 1 in 3 are using their devices to complete homework and learn better.

Here are some of the most exciting findings from the study:

  • "An unexpected number of middle school students (from all ethnicities and incomes) say they are using mobile devices including smartphones and tablets to do their homework. Previous TRU research indicated that middle school students are using smartphones and tablets for communication and entertainment. However, this is the first TRU research that shows that middle school students are also using these mobile devices to complete homework assignments.
    • More than one out of three middle school students report they are using smartphones (39%) and tablets (31%) to do homework.
    • More than 1 in 4 students ( 26 %) are using smartphones for their homework, weekly or more.
    • Hispanic and African American middle school students are using the smartphones for homework more than Caucasian students. Nearly one half of all Hispanic middle school students (49%) report using smartphones for homework. Smartphone use for homework also crosses income levels with nearly one in three (29%) of students from the lowest income households reporting smartphone usage to do their homework assignments.  (a quota was set to ensure a minimum of 200 respondents with a household income of $25,000 or less.)
  • Despite the high numbers of middle school students using laptops, smartphones and tablets for homework, very few are using these mobile devices in the classroom, particularly tablets and smartphones. A large gap exists between mobile technology use at home and in school.
  • Where 39% of middle school students use smartphones for homework, only 6% report that they can use the smartphone in classroom for school work. There is also a gap in tablet use. Although 31% of middle school students say they use a tablet for homework, only 18% report using it in the classroom.
  • 66% of students are not allowed to use a tablet for learning purposes in the classroom, and 88% are not allowed to use a phone.
  • Students say using mobile devices like tablets makes them want to learn more.
  • A significant opportunity appears to exist for middle schools to more deeply engage students by increasing their use of mobile devices in the classroom.
    • Access to mobile devices at home is high among this group, and students are already turning to these devices to complete homework assignments. Therefore, it is only natural and highly beneficial for students to extend this mobile device usage into the classroom.
    • Teacher education and training on the effective integration of mobile technologies into instruction may provide significant benefits for all. Mobile device usage in class appears to have the potential to sustain, if not increase interest in STEM subjects as students progress into high school.

It’s time to spread the world and ensure educators know the wealth of ways to safely, ethically, and effectively utilize the power of mobile technology with students for homework and IN the classroom. For ideas and support in using cell phones for learning check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning.

Survey Methodology
 Verizon Foundation commissioned TRU to conduct quantitative research on middle school students’ use of technology.  TRU conducted 1,000 online interviews among sixth- to eighth-grade students, ages 11-14, yielding a margin of error of + 3.0 percentage points. A quota was set to ensure a minimum of 200 respondents with a household income of $25,000 or less.  Unless otherwise noted, all reported data is based on a statistically reliable base size of n=100 or greater.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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