What Technology Do Students Want?

Posted by Sandra Miller on May 2, 2011

Boy with smart phoneResults from the latest Project Tomorrow Speak Up Survey suggest today’s  students are looking at a different paradigm in their learning experiences.

Students today are inseparable from their mobile technologies; instant messaging and texting is a way of life.  And they want to use their technology at school.

It’s tempting to dismiss that idea out of hand, but actually,  I’m impressed with the answers kids give when asked, “How would you use your mobile technologies for help with your school work?”  Older students—those in 9th–12th grades— would use them in ways we would describe as traditional.

  • 74% would check grades.
  • 59% would take notes in class.
  • 50% would use the calendar.
  • 44% would access online textbooks.

Younger students—those in 6th–8th grades—want to leverage emerging technologies in different ways to help with their schoolwork.

  • 68% would do Internet research, anytime, anywhere.
  • 53% would collaborate with peers and teachers.
  • 37% would create and share documents.
  • 35% would record lectures/labs to review again later.

While their teachers may cite lack of preparation, antiquated equipment or slow networks as impeding the use of technology in the classroom, 53%t of middle and high school students say the largest obstacle they face in using technology in their school today is their inability to use their own devices!

While many teachers and administrators have begun to approach new ways of using technology in classrooms, this latest Speak Up research says there is more than a gap between what many schools offer and students want—there’s a chasm!  When administrators were asked, “How likely are you to let students use their cell phones?” only 22% said likely; 63% said NOT likely.

By contrast, 67% of parents said they would buy a cell phone for their student to use at school, and 54% would also buy a data plan to support their student’s work.  And we’re not talking only affluent parents.  The Speak Up Survey results did not find significant differences among parents responses for any of the demographics that were tracked.

In fact, parents’ pressure on schools may just be the next trend in moving technology forward in our schools.  Today’s parents use technology daily in their work as well as in their social lives.  The Speak Up survey showed 57% of parents today consider instructional technology to be “extremely important” for their child’s success.  Only 37% of teachers see technology as that important.  Indeed, for leaders wanting to integrate technology in their schools, this is a challenge!

Students definitely have a clear vision of the potential of mobile learning to enable, engage, and empower them as 21st century learners.  Their parents see technology’s value.  As educational leaders we must spread this vision to our teachers and help them acquire the skills and technology needed to teach in more meaningful ways that match the tech-intensive lives of today’s students.

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iPad2 Released

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on March 8, 2011

Rumors have been flying for some time about what the 2nd generation iPad would—and would not—include. On March 2, Apple set everyone straight by announcing the release of the iPad2, which will be available in Apple stores and online on March 11, with no pre-orders accepted. While there are a few enhancements, it doesn’t seem that the iPad2 renders the original iPad obsolete—yet, anyway.

The iPad2 is a little thinner, a little lighter, and sports a 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 SOC processor which makes it more powerful, supporting use of FaceTime, Photo Booth, iMovie, and GarageBand as well as improved performance for Safari. There are also two cameras (front and back). But much is the same. For example, screen size and resolution has not changed, nor has battery life, and there are no additional I/O ports.

There is already a new version of iTunes that supports iPad2 which also runs on the original iPad and other devices (e.g., 3rd and 4th generation Touch), and a new operating system (iOS 4.3) will be released on March 11. This free download will run on all iPads, the GSM iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, and 3rd and 4th generation iPod Touch.

Pricing for the iPad2 is the same as the original iPad, and Apple has dropped prices on 1st generation iPads by $100 each. Those who purchased 1st generation iPads within two weeks of the iPad2 announcement are eligible for a $100 refund, but need to visit a brick and mortar store or, if purchased online, contact Apple’s 1-800 number soon.

At this point, no one is sure how long the original iPad will be available for purchase. Some tech gurus think Apple may continue to sell this model as a less expensive alternative, while others believe that it will be available through 2012 and then disappear when iPad3 is launched. The fact that it’s now possible to purchase a 16GB WiFi only 1st generation iPad for $399 will be tempting for cash-strapped schools that want tablets, but had shied away from the $499 price tag.

Personally, while I may end up purchasing an iPad2 for business purposes, I’m perfectly satisfied with my 1st generation iPad and would prefer to wait for the iPad3. It’s been my experience that this is usually when new Apple devices really come into their own.

You can stay on top of breaking iPad2 news at http://www.engadget.com/tag/Ipad2/.

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Keeping Our Netbooks…for now!

Posted by Jim Yeager on February 14, 2011

As my iPad and I get more acquainted, I find myself analyzing its place in my instructional technology program.  For example, one of the cornerstones of our program is a modified 1-to-1 netbook project with fourth grade.  We utilize a toolbox that consists of a word processor, a presentation application, a spreadsheet, and the Internet.  A typical activity will call for the students to brainstorm in their word processor, create a presentation, and work with some data.  Often they do simple research or get their instructions from the Internet.

My teachers utilize shared learning spaces to share assignments, links, and prompts.  Many times students share documents with classmates and the teacher.  These fourth graders have become amazingly proficient with Google Docs and can manage several applications at one time.  My teachers and I can readily create tasks that not only address content standards, but offer connections to NETS standards as well.

For personal use, the iPad is my favorite information consumption device.  I keep it handy for tasks that range from educational research to Angry Birds.  I could see it replacing our textbooks, but at the moment, I can’t see replacing my $300 netbooks for our projects that call for student-directed research, collaboration, and creativity.  For now, I’ll wait and see what the next generation iPad, or its competitor, has to offer.

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Giving Arkansas Preschoolers a Better Chance

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on April 30, 2010

Research shows that language development up to the age of five impacts a child’s success in school throughout his or her academic career. Children who spend these critical years in language rich environments are far more likely to be successful students than are children who do not. But with 20 children in a class, how can teachers insure that all children have ample opportunity to be exposed to high-quality language experiences? And how can teachers increase the likelihood that children will have similar experiences at home?

Marsha Daniels, Director of the South Central Services Cooperative (SCSC) in Camden, AR presented this challenge to staff early in 2009. As a result, 22 Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) preschool teachers and paraprofessionals representing 11 classrooms across SCSC’s service area are leveraging the fact that preschoolers are one of the fastest growing groups of technology users and ready availability of inexpensive mobile technologies such as iPods and Flip cameras to extend their accessibility to youngsters in the classroom and to the children’s parents.

Launched in July 2009, participants have received equipment and training designed to increase children’s language experiences in the classroom and extend the school day by engaging parents in activities they can do with their children at home. The focus for year 1 has been to get the initiative up and running. Each classroom received an iMac desktop computer, an iPod Classic, and a Flip camera. Five days of training scheduled across the 2009-2010 school year and provided by an outside consultant, classroom visitations by the consultant and director, an on-going support provided by SCSC staff have resulted in teachers and paraprofessionals creating monthly podcasts and videos for children and their parents. Participants also each created a classroom wiki site where parents can access these files along with other online resources and news.

The results for year 1 are very positive. Every teacher and paraprofessional has exceeded original expectations. The children are regularly accessing short language-rich podcasts and videos. Parents are slowly, but surely coming to the wiki to use these files with their children at home. The focus in year 2 will be on innovative use of these technologies in lesson design and in helping the children become more independent in their use of the technology.

This project is listed as an exemplary case of blended in- and out of- school learning on the new National Education Technology site. Read more about it!

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