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Duh! Learning should be collaborative, personalized and tech-supported

By Team ISTE 4/30/2015

We know that the ultimate learning experience for students is highly collaborative, personalized, and supported by mobile devices and digital content. So it should come as no surprise that students know this too.

Results from the 2014 Speak Up survey, released Thursday by Project Tomorrow, give us a glimpse of how students view modern learning. The findings indicate that they understand their learning process very well. They have clear preferences for how they want to learn, which devices they want to use, how they want to communicate with teachers and which social media platforms they favor.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for digital learning,” said Project Tomorrow CEO Julie Evans, adding that leveraging digital tools to personalize learning was a top trend in the survey’s overall results.

A record 431,000 K-12 students from all over the United States took the online survey this year. During a Congressional briefing on the report Thursday, Evans shared a host of findings:

  • 40 percent of students use online videos to help with homework, and 28 percent say they regularly watch videos created by their teachers.
  • 7 in 10 teachers assign online homework, but 5 million students don’t have access to broadband at home.
  • 82 percent of students in grades 9-12 have smartphones, compared with 68 percent in grades 6-8 and 46 percent in grades 3-5.
  • Nearly two-thirds of students want to use games for learning. Students in all grades say games can make difficult concepts easier to understand.
  • 64 percent of girls in grades 3-5 and 50 percent of girls in grades 6-8 say they are interested in learning to code. That number declines among high school girls: Only one-third say they are interested in coding, an indication that the sweet spot of interest is in elementary school.
  • 46 percent of high school students are Twitter users. In 2011, only 11 percent were tweeting. At the same time, YouTube has eclipsed Facebook as the preferred social media platform among students.
  • 75 percent of students think every student should have access to a mobile learning device during the school day. Increasingly, students have access to multiple mobile devices.
  • Students prefer laptops for testing, writing reports and completing group projects. Smartphones get the nod for connecting with teachers, accessing social media and watching videos.
  • Two-thirds of middle and high school students said blended learning seemed like a good way to learn.
  • 24 percent of high schoolers said they would prefer full-time online learning, up from 8 percent in 2013.
  • Students prefer their own devices to school-based devices, which are often slow to load, left uncharged or unreliable.

A panel of seven students in grades 3-12 participated in the live Congressional briefing. They described a number of ways they employ technology for learning, including using apps that remind them of homework assignments, turning to games to learn math facts, working in the cloud to get instant feedback from teachers, and getting additional help on difficult topics via online videos.

Mohamed, an eighth grader, said he prefers his own devices to school technology, which can be slow to load or constantly updating — a phenomenon that is often frustrating for students and stressful for teachers.

Roy’el, a sixth grader, also had a suggestion for educators: “It would be cool if teachers from science, math and art could team up for projects.”

Third grader Nia said she thinks students should have the opportunity to use tablets for learning. “We use a game that helps us with multiplication, division and fractions,” she said.  

Nia also said her teacher has students put their smartphones in a box on her desk when entering the classroom. She said she and her peers would prefer to use smartphones to watch videos because they don’t always have a clear view of the projector screen.

Read the full Speak Up Survey report.  

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