Call Me a Cockeyed Optimist!

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on June 12, 2012

Woman expressing sense of hopeThree annual education technology reports are must-reads for school administrators: Speak Up (Project Tomorrow), Technology Counts (Education Week), and the Horizon Report on K-12 Education (New Media Consortium). Late in May, Project Tomorrow released part 2 of its report on the results of the 2011 Speak Up online survey* on education and technology in the United States. Personalizing the Classroom Experience – Teachers, Librarians and Administrators Connect the Dots with Digital Learning provides a summary of survey responses from teachers, librarians, and administrators. It’s usually interesting to compare the responses of students and parents to those of educators. This year is no exception.

Released in April of this year, part 1 of this year’s report, Mapping a Personalized Learning Journey – K-12 Students and Parents Connects the Dots with Digital Learning, summarizes student and parent responses on the survey. Key findings include:

  • Students already use technology—online learning and mobile devices—to personalize their learning outside of school.
  • Students and their parents voice strong support bring-your-own-technology initiatives.
  • When invited to envision model classrooms, student in grades 3-12 describe environments where they can
    • work collaboratively with peer and teachers
    • access digitally-rich content
    • extend learning beyond the school day selecting from a variety of technology-supported resources

How do these findings stack up next to educators’ results? Key findings here include:

  • Educators are catching up with their students in terms of personal technology use, particularly in the use of
    • social networking and social media
    • online professional development
    • and mobile technologies
  • Educators who use the technologies listed in the previous finding are much more likely to support classroom use of the same technology than those who do not.
  • Educators recognize the critical need for professional development that helps them leverage classroom use of digital tools and are increasingly open to online learning experiences.

In past years, a comparison of the two parts of the report has emphasized the gap between the two groups, with parents and students expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of technology-supported learning activities at school and educators reporting reluctance to fully embrace digitally-rich instructional environments for a wide variety of reasons. There’s still a gap, but the 2011 results may show that we’ve reached a turning point.

In its analysis of the results, Project Tomorrow highlights two points that may indicate an important shift in educators’ views on technology use in schools. First, “District administrators who are mobile users themselves are twice as likely to be piloting a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) approach or be evaluating the idea of implementing a BYOT program as other administrators.”  This is supported by the fact that 40% of mobile technology-using administrators are considering BYOT programs and nearly 30% of these administrators work at schools that provide mobile technologies for student use.

Second, “The same holds for educators who have used online learning to support their own professional development.” A majority of teachers and administrators now report engaging in online classes for professional development. And, educators who have completed an online course are more likely to recommend that online classes be available to students.

The correlation between personal use of technology and support of its use at school is not news. What’s important here is the growth in the number of technology-using educators, particularly among administrators. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I’m hopeful these findings indicate we’re finally heading toward learning environments where students and educators have access to a wide variety of resources, including appropriate technologies.

*For readers who may not be familiar with the program, Speak Up reports are based on an annual survey of K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians, and administrators from public, private, and charter schools all over the nation. Participation is voluntary, and more than 416,000 responses were received for this most recent survey. This is the ninth year for the project.



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.