Speak Up 2010 National Findings-How Today’s Students are Leveraging Emerging Technologies for Learning

Boy textingThis April, Speak Up 2010 released its national findings in the United States on the use of emerging technologies for learning. “The New 3 E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged, Empowered: How Today’s Students are Leveraging Emerging Technologies for Learning” is the first report in a two- part series on the results of the Speak Up National Research Project 2010.

Speak Up is an online research project facilitated by the non-profit organization Project Tomorrow. The project polls K-12 students, parents and educators regarding the role of technology for learning. Since 2003, over 1.8 million students have participated in Speak Up surveys. Speak Up is a valuable source of valid data related to K-12 educational technology, science, math, and 21st century skills. These surveys are available to schools and districts in the U.S. and internationally.

The report provides a context to look at emerging technologies in education and how they should be used effectively for learning, with the use of this guiding question:

What can we learn today about the students’ aspirations, adoption and adaptation of emerging technologies for learning that can help us plan for the future?

To address this question, the report focuses on three specific trends: mobile learning, online and blended learning and e-textbooks.

Key trend #1: Mobile Learning

Using this question as a guide, “How can mobile learning enable, engage and empower today’s students as learners?” the Speak Up survey polled students on their personal access to and use of mobile devices. Some significant findings were reported:

  • Smartphone access for middle and high school students increased 42% from 2009 to 2010.
  • Students see use of mobile devices as two-fold; both as increasing the effectiveness of their learning process as well as to provide new opportunities for learning.
  • The potential of these devices can provide expanded opportunities for learning in the areas of research, collaboration, and communication (ex.internet research, social media use, creation and sharing of documents).
  • Adminstrators, teachers and parents report that an important benefit of use of mobile devices is an increase in student engagement.
  • “BYOD” or “Bring Your Own Device” models, in which the student uses his/her own personal mobile device, are being explored in certain districts.
  • 70% of parents of high school students are likely to buy a mobile device for their child to use at school.
  • Students report that the largest obstacle they face is use of their mobile device in their schools.

Key finding: The use of mobile devices provides enhanced opportunities for students to be more engaged in learning both within and beyond the classroom.

Key Trend # 2: Online and Blended Learning

Blended learning can be defined as programs that combine multiple instructional approaches with the use of different web technologies (Canadian Council on Learning, 2010). Significant findings related to online and blended learning in the Speak up report were as follows:

  • For high school students, the percentage of students taking classes online has increased significantly from 2009 (18%) to 2010 (30%).
  • 47% of high school students say they would like to use an online environment to collaborate on school projects.
  • 46% of high school students use social networking to collaborate on school projects.

Key finding: Online blended learning creates new opportunities for collaboration and student engagement, empowering a sense of “personal ownership” of the learning process.

Key Trend #3: E-textbooks

  • Digital textboks are an emerging trend in middle and high schools. 35% of high school students are using online books or other online curriculum.
  • Use of e-textbooks are congruent with elements of the student vision for the integration of technology in education: socially -based learning, un-tethered learning and digitally rich content.

Key finding: The use of e-textbooks provides a real-world context for learning within the classroom, as well beyond the classroom.

A New Trend: Parental Digital Choice

Speak Up also reports on a new phenomenon of parental digital choice. Parents are instrumental in enabling the use of mobile technologies in the classroom. Some key findings:

  • 67% of parents would purchase a mobile device for their child to use if the school allowed it.
  • 53 % of parents support online tutors and tools
  • A majority of parents believe that use of mobile devices is a factor in extending learning beyond the classroom.
  • 52% of parents believe that instructional technology to be “extremely important” for their child’s success.
  • Parents want schools to use technology to create personalized learning experiences for their children.

Key finding: With the use of new technologies in education and through their digital choices, parents are enabling greater educational opportunities for their children, and building a new paradigm for the role of parents in education.

How well are schools in the US leveraging technology to enhance learning?

A clear divergence of opinion was revealed when parents, educators and students were polled on the question of: “Is your school doing a good job using technology to enhance learning and/or student achievement?” While 74% of teachers, 72% of high school principals and 62% of parents answered yes to that question, only 47% of high school students agreed. Although students have a clear vision and understanding of the potential of new technologies in their education, schools are clearly not meeting their expectations.

Lastly, students, parents, admonistrators and educators were asked to envision their ultimate school, and to identify resources and tools that have an impact on student learning and achievement. Some of these tools include smartphones, tablets, online collaboration tools, internet access, and adaptive software. While there are differing perspectives on the specific technology tools used to create an “ultimate school,” there is clear agreement from all stakeholders that these emerging technologies are essential to provoke transformation in education.

From theory to action

Although this report is based on students in the United States, it raises important issues surrounding the implementation of emerging technologies in Canadian schools. In order to move from theory to action, what is critically important is to incorporate the perspective of all stakeholders when implementing a framework for emerging technologies in the classroom.

In the Canadian context, Ministries of Education, industry, school boards and districts, non-profits, teachers, administrators and students need to bring their individual viewpoints and expertise to the table.

  • Collaboration is key and especially relevant in times of budget restraint and economic pressures in education.
  • One size does not fit all; and local decision-making is paramount to successful implementation. Informed and creative choices about technology integration at the local level will lead to successful reform in education for the 21st century.
  • Technology is only as effective as its implementation; ultimately it is the people driving the technology that will have an impact on learning.

For another perspective on emerging technologies…

The Horizon Project is a joint initiative by the New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking, and the International Society for Technology in Education. Each year this project publishes the Horizon Report, describing trends in emerging technologies for teaching, learning and creative inquiry that have an impact on learning. Horizon Report 2011 describes six “technologies to watch” as well as challenges that schools face in their implementation.

CSBA and 21st century learning

Stay tuned for an upcoming review of the Horizon Report 2011, as well as part two in the Speak Up series: “How Today’s Educators Are Advancing a New Vision for Teaching and Learning.” Feedback and comments are always appreciated.