Students Seek Real-Life Technology Experiences in School

From Electronic Education Report, April 25, 2014

Students would like their classroom experiences with technology to more closely mirror their experiences outside of school, according to a Speak Up survey conducted by Project Tomorrow.

Project Tomorrow in April releasedThe New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirationsbased on a 2013 online survey completed by more than 400,000 K-12 students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members.

“We asked students for their ideas about how to improve technology use in schools,” said Julie Evans, Project Tomorrow CEO. “In general, they want a greater alignment between their out-of-school learning life and what they experience in the classroom; they would like access to mobile devices, digital games, Internet access throughout their schools and access to websites they use for learning, to name a few.”

Over 60% of students in grades 6-12 said allowing access to websites they need for learning would improve technology use in schools. Over 50% of grade 6-12 students said being able to use their own mobile device would be a way to improve school technology use.

Looking up information on the Internet is the most common way students currently are using mobile devices in schools, cited by 63% of respondents. Other ways mobile devices are being used included:


            • 43% access online textbooks;

            • 42% communicate with peers and teachers;

            • 40% take online tests;

            • 33% play online games;

            • 32% take photos for assignments.


Only one-third of middle school students say that they prefer to read digital materials rather than printed materials for schoolwork reading; more than half, however, say online textbooks would be an essential component of their “ultimate school.”

In terms of 1:1 access, teachers responding to the survey described their students’ access as follows:


            • 44% do not have regular access to mobile devices;

            • 23% have occasional use of devices checked out for specific activities;

            • 22% have school provided devices;

            • 11% use their own devices;

Digital equity, including student access to the Internet outside of school, is a growing concern among district technology leaders with 46% saying it is one of the most challenging issues they face today, compared to 19% who said digital equity was a concern in 2010.

Gaming Grows

Approximately 25% of the teachers Project Tomorrow surveyed in 2013 reported they are integrating digital games into their instruction plans while surveyed students report they search for games on their own to help them learn. Nearly one-quarter of middle-school students reported they played an online game outside of school specifically to learn something. Among students who self-identified as advanced technology users, the number was 50% among both boys and girls.

The stereotype that girls do not play digital games is outdated, according to the report, which found 42% of girls in grades 3-5 and 37% of girls in grades 6-8 said they regularly play games on tablets, compared to 38% of boys in grades 3-8. A similar pattern exists with game play on smartphones with equal percentages of boys and girls, 28% in elementary school and 45% in middle school, playing games on those devices.

“Boys are still playing more massively multi-player online games than girls, but there is little difference now in all other digital game play,” said Evans.•