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Annual survey finds that students say digital learning supports self-directed learning and collaboration

Fifty-eight percent of high school students in a national survey said they use their own mobile devices for learning in school, and 47 percent of teachers in the survey reported that their students have regular access to mobile devices in their classrooms.

The information comes from Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up survey, which polls students, parents, administrators, and educators about their technology use in and out of school.

“We definitely have seen an increased sense of urgency around how to effectively use digital tools and content to be able to impact student learning,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, during a Congressional briefing to discuss the data.

“There isn’t one recipe for implementing digital learning, particularly personalized learning. …As part of that, we’re seeing more and more use of digital content,” she said.

The 2014 survey focuses on key areas that drive digital learning and innovation in classrooms.

Mobile learning and digital equity

“The issue of digital equity and access, particularly in terms of out of school access to the internet, is top of mind for many education leaders today,” according to the report.

Forty-seven percent of surveyed school and district technology leaders said digital equity and students’ out-of-school internet access are among their most challenging issues this year.

Regular access to technology continues to be a main focus, too. Thirteen percent of surveyed high school students and 21 percent of surveyed middle school students said they have no regular access to technology in schools.

“Today, as many as 7 in 10 teachers assign homework that requires access to the internet and broadband,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Commissioner, at the Congressional briefing. As many as 1 in 3 households in this country do not subscribe to broadband. Where they overlap is what I call the ‘homework gap.’ Nearly half of all educational technology leaders are concerned about student access to the internet outside of school. Their concern is spot-on.”

According to Pew Research Center statistics released in April 2015, Rosenworcel said, “the homework gap is real. There are 5 million households of the 29 million households in this country with school-aged children, that are falling into this gap and do not have access to broadband at home.”

Though many reports cite data indicating that low-income students report access to smartphones, more must be done, she said, especially because of the growing number of jobs that require digital skill.

“A phone is just now how you want to further your education. We can do better than this. After all, we need to,” she said. “School-aged kids without broadband at home are not only unable to complete their homework–they enter the workforce with a serious skills gap.”

Blended learning

Forty-five percent of surveyed district administrators said district blended learning programs are showing positive results.

While only 25 percent of surveyed students said they are currently involved in a blended learning environment (25 percent of surveyed students in grades 6-8 and 23 percent of surveyed students in grades 9-12), those students indicated that blended learning:

  • Helps them learn at their own pace (64 percent)
  • Helps them develop creativity skills (63 percent)
  • Increases their collaboration with peers (61 percent)

Twenty-one percent of surveyed students in grades 3-5 said they regularly watch teacher-developed videos outside of their classroom.

Online learning

Online learning remains in the majority, with survey results indicating that only 27 percent of participating high school principals do not offer any online courses for students.

Surveyed principals said they offer online learning options to their students in order to:

  • Keep students engaged (69 percent)
  • Offer academic remediation (62 percent)
  • Provide advanced coursework (47 percent)
  • Find a solution for hard-to-staff subjects (44 percent)

While only 8 percent of 2013 surveyed high school students said they were interested in fully online learning, 24 percent of this year’s participating students said they would like to take all of their classes online.

This growing interest is reflected at the middle school level, with 44 percent of surveyed students reporting a desire to take math classes online.

The survey also shows that 28 percent of surveyed students in fully online learning environments create and post digital content, compared with 18 percent of traditional students in the survey.

STEM learning experiences

This year’s survey compared student data from three different STEM environments (after-school computer programming/coding clubs, STEM academies, and school-sponsored tech support teams) against students who did not participate in those environments.

Data showed that early STEM engagement is key to sustaining girls’ interest in STEM subjects.

Middle school girls in the survey are 38 percent less likely than male peers to express interest in a STEM career, and 32 percent of surveyed high school girls reported the same.

Sixty-four percent of surveyed elementary school girls in grades 3-5 said they were interested in programming and coding.

In addition to defined classroom technology-supported learning, self-directed learning is growing in leaps and bounds, and surveyed students provided anecdotal evidence that they pursue learning outside of structured classroom time.

One possible reason for this growth could be students’ increased access to digital tools, resources, and the internet at home.

“Two big questions emerge from this year’s report: Are we ready to support a new kind of educational ecosystem that acknowledges learning as a 24/7 enterprise, and what do we need to do today to enable and empower these kinds of student-centric digital learning experiences for all students?” asked Evans.

 

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