Report: Students' interest in digital learning tools rises

Today’s students are more concerned about using a variety of digital learning tools such as mobile devices and less concerned about access to the Internet, according to the Speak Up 2012 National Report on K-12 Students released today.

Just as they use different textbooks for different classes, today’s students want to be able to choose from their own collection of mobile tools to create an individualized learning process. They not only are adopting new technologies faster than most adults but they are also better at adapting the products to fit their particular needs. For example, nearly 75 percent of students in grades 6-12 use their cellphone, smartphone or tablet to take a photo of the assignment their teacher has written on the board rather than writing it down on a piece of paper.

This desire by students to use mobile devices and social media tools to self-direct their learning is often thwarted by school policies and other institutional barriers. In 2003, when students were asked to identify the top barriers to using technology at school, their top responses focused on access to the tools that were school provided: 1. Internet access is too slow; 2. School filters and firewalls block websites I need; 3. Not enough computers for students to use; 4. Computers are too old; and 5. Software is too old or not good enough to use

Students’ responses in 2012 also include a complaint about school filters and firewalls, but the other top responses center on how the school is limiting their access to the digital tools and resources they are using regularly outside of school: 1. School filters and firewalls block website I need; 2. I cannot access my social media sites; 3. I cannot use my own mobile device; 4. There are too many rules about using technology at school; and 5. I cannot use text messaging

Despite this increase of mobile devices in the hands of students, schools are still reluctant to allow them. Among high school students with smartphones, only half say they can use their device at school and only nine percent of students say they can use their personal tablets at school. With 73 percentage of high school seniors saying they have a laptop, only 18 percent of the Class of 2013 say they are allowed to use their personal laptop at school.

Speak Up has surveyed over 3 million K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians, principals, technology leaders and district administrators since the fall of 2003.