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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