The ultimate learning experience for students is both highly collaborative and extremely personalized, supported by mobile devices and digital content, reports Project Tomorrow in their latest Speak Up report.
Over the last few years of the Speak Up survey, more students and administrators have signaled the importance of being able to access mobile devices in the classroom, whether through Bring Your Own Device policy consideration and implementation or through school-provided technology. This year, nearly half of teachers (47 percent) said their students have regular access to mobile devices in their classrooms. Among high school students, 58 percent said they now use their own mobile device at school to support learning activities.
Digital equity and access, particularly outside of school, remains an issue important to administrators. Of note this year, among students using mobile devices provided by their schools, half (51 percent of high school students and 46 percent of middle school students) say that their out of school internet connectivity is through a mobile data plan. Not to be forgotten, there are still students who report no regular access to technology in schools: 13 percent of high school students and 21 percent of middle school students.
Over the last few years of the Speak Up survey, more students and
This year’s report, Digital Learning 24/7: Understanding Technology – Enhanced Learning in the Lives of Today’s Students, provides landmark findings on the efficacy and value associated with popular digital learning initiatives: blended learning, online learning, school-assigned mobile devices and STEM learning. The views, values and experiences of students taking part in these digital learning initiatives are compared with students in more traditional classroom-based education.
“We hope by highlighting the views and values of today’s students, especially those students who are living a digital learning experience, this year’s report stimulates new discussions around the effective use of digital tools, resources and content to support student learning,” said Julie Evans CEO of Project Tomorrow.
This year’s report and several data snapshots and infographics will be available here:
Students in Blended Learning Environments
Whether driven by parental demands for increased personalization or higher goals for student achievement, many administrators are finding that blended learning environments hold great promise. In fact, 45 percent of district administrators in this year’s Speak Up surveys indicate that the implementation of blended learning models within their district was already yielding positive results. (Speak Up used the iNACOL definition of blended learning that includes both supervised learning in school and self-paced learning when students have some level of control over the learning process.)
While 63 percent of students in grades 6-12 agreed that blended learning would be a good way for them to learn, just one-quarter of students indicate that they are currently learning in a blended environment (25 percent of students in grades 6-8 and 23 percent of students in grades 9-12). Elementary schools may also be exploring various types of blended learning. Twenty-one percent of students in grades 3-5 reported regularly watching videos of lessons developed by their teachers outside the classroom (a common practice of flipped learning, which is a version of blended learning).
Students in blended environments use technology more frequently than their peers in more traditional classroom settings. In addition to use in the classroom, these students are also more likely to self-direct their learning outside of school by tapping into mobile apps, finding online videos to help with homework, emailing their teachers with questions and posting content they create online for comment. When asked about the benefits of blended learning, 64 percent of these students in grades 6-12 noted being able to learn at their own pace, 63 percent reported developing creativity skills and 61 percent said collaborating more with their peers.
Students Learning 100 Percent Online
The availability of online learning continues to increase with only 27 percent of high school principals reporting that they are not yet offering any online courses for students. Interest among students continues to grow. Only 8 percent of high school students were interested in fully online learning in 2013. In this year’s report, nearly a quarter (24 percent) said they wish they could take all their classes online. Interest among middle school students in taking at least some classes online is even greater. For example, 44 percent would like to take math classes online, compared to 25 percent of high school students.
“The interest in online learning, at least for some classes, is much greater among students in grades 6 to 8, indicating that there will be even greater demand for these types of classes by the time they reach high school,” noted Evans.
As expected, digital experiences for students in a 100 percent virtual environment are much different than those in traditional schools. For instance, 72 percent of high school students in virtual schools take online tests, compared with 58 percent of traditional students. Students in virtual environments create fewer PowerPoint presentations (43 percent compared to 70 percent), but they create and post more online content than their peers (28 percent versus 18 percent). Students in virtual classrooms are twice as likely to text message their teachers with schoolwork questions (29 percent) than students in traditional learning environments (15 percent).
Students with School-Assigned Devices
Students with a personally assigned mobile device report greater usage of digital tools and resources to support schoolwork than students who do not have regular technology access at school. For instance, 66 percent of students with assigned laptops report creating presentations, compared to 49 percent of students with no assigned technology. Nearly 40 percent of students with assigned tablets report watching teacher created videos, compared to just 21 percent of students without.
Almost three-quarters of students with school-provided devices as well as students with limited or non-existent technology access at school agreed that every student should be able to use a mobile device during the school day for learning.
When it came to particular types of devices, students see the smartphone as the ideal device for communicating with teachers (46 percent) and classmates (72 percent) and for social media (64 percent). Laptops were the preference for middle school students for writing school reports (87 percent), taking online tests (74 percent) and doing Internet research (59 percent).
“I have many apps on my phone that help me on school a lot,” reported a female high school student in Guam. “I have a homework app that organizes all of my homework and reminds me when something is due. Also, I have another app where it is like an online note card and it’s easier for me to test myself on a subject outside of school instead of bringing my papers where I go. On my tablet, there are applications that have almost every subject and teach you lessons for instance, a lesson in algebra 2 or how to balance an equation for chemistry.”
Students in STEM Learning Experiences
To explore the relationship between participation in STEM learning and students’ views on digital learning, the report compares data from students in three specific types of STEM environments with students not in these programs. Speak Up identified students participating in after school computer programming (coding) clubs, school sponsored technology support teams and STEM Academies.
Students in all three studied STEM learning environments are more likely than other students to tap into a variety of digital tools and resources outside of school to pursue additional learning opportunities. For examples, 23 percent of STEM Academy students, 18 percent of student in computer programming clubs and 26 percent of students on school tech support teams took a self-paced tutorial or online class outside of school, compared with just 11 percent of other students.
Reflecting a long-standing trend, this year’s data results reconfirm that a gender bias exists in STEM interest. The survey shows middle school girls 38 percent less likely and high school girls 32 percent less likely than their male peers to say they are very interested in a STEM career. As noted here and elsewhere, girls’ interest in STEM drops as they get older. To lessen that declining level of interest, it appears that the sweet spot for engaging and nurturing girls’ interest in computer programming as a gateway to sustained STEM interest may be in elementary school (where 64 percent of girls in grades 3-5 were interested in programming and coding), a place where few such programs exist today.
Fifth Digital Learning Environment
Beyond the four digital learning initiatives explored in this report, today’s students are creating their own learning environment by tapping into digital tools, resources and content to self-direct their learning beyond the sponsorship or facilitation of their teachers to explore academic interests or passions for knowledge.
“I appreciate and value the love of learning; rather than forced learning,” reported a male high school student from Indiana in the survey. “So, outside of school, I very often teach myself about all sorts of things. I am constantly learning arts and music, and advancing my skills in the two. Also, I believe it’s important for people and students to WANT to learn when they leave school… Outside of school, I research and learn about things online like history, philosophy, religion, arts and sciences.
“Two big questions emerge from this year’s report: Are we ready to support a new kind of educational ecosystem that acknowledges learning as a 24/7 enterprise, and what do we need to do today to enable and empower these kinds of student-centric digital learning experiences for all students?” asked Evans.
About the Speak Up Research Project and Speak Up 2014
Speak Up is an initiative of Project Tomorrow®, the leading global education nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of student voices in education. Each year, the Speak Up Research Project polls K-12 students, parents and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. This survey represents the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder voices on digital learning. Since fall 2003, almost 4 million K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians, principals, technology leaders, district administrators and members of the community have shared their views and ideas through Speak Up. K-12 educators, higher education faculty, business, and policy leaders report that they regularly use the Speak Up data to inform federal, state and local education programs.
In fall 2014, Project Tomorrow surveyed 431,231 K-12 students, 35,337 parents, 41,805 teachers, 2,485 librarians, 680 district administrators, 3,207 school administrators, 442 technology leaders and 6,653 members of the community representing 8,216 public and private schools from 2,676 districts. Schools from urban (30%), suburban (30 %), and rural (40 %) communities were represented. Just over one-half of the schools (56%) that participated in Speak Up 2014 were Title I eligible schools (an indicator of student population poverty). The Speak Up 2014 surveys were available online for input between October 6th and December 19th, 2014.
The online survey is supported by many of our nation’s most innovative companies, foundations and nonprofit organizations including Qualcomm Wireless Reach, Rosetta Stone, Fuel Education, Blackboard, Schoolwires, DreamBox Learning, and BrainPOP.
The report can be found online at: http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/SU14DigitalLearning24-7_StudentReport.html
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.