Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Technology for Learning - We Might Want to Ask the Students

I have been doing some independent research on technology use in classrooms.  With all the news about 1:1 classrooms and students using technology apps to learn, I was curious about what is actually happening.  Some of my findings have made me really question whether some of our approaches - i.e. 1:1, computers vs. tablets, are really supporting the way students are learning with technology.

I found this interesting report from Project Tomorrow called "From Chalkboards to Tablets: The Emergence of the K-12 Digital Learner"  with some fascinating statistics regarding the technology students are using to help them learn.  You should download the full report (available as a PDF), but I will share a few of the findings here.

One thing that stood out for me is the prevalence of smartphone use by students, especially as they get into the upper grades.  Table 1 below shows the use of both personal and school provided devices.  Very apparent that 1:1 and school provided technology is NOT as dominant as news reports would make us believe.

Smartphones are definitely the preferred student  technology choice. I should't be surprised, since my two daughters seemed to do most of their homework using their phones. I asked my daughters why the phone, and they said it's just easier, quicker, and you can get everything you need (i.e. videos, research, answers/help). The tablet/laptops are only needed if it is necessary to write something that must be turned in or create a project. Though they did say they used the calculator for math, mainly because it was the only thing allowed in the math class and on tests.

This of course begs the question, what are students doing with these smartphones and other devices to support their learning? I know my own daughter was a huge fan of the Khan Academy for helping her learn calculus. The findings from the Project Tomorrow report showed the following results, most of which are not surprising, except perhaps the texting with teachers (at least for me). The video statistic definitely was supported by what I saw my own daughters doing.  I was a bit surprised to not see researching information via the internet.

There are several other charts/tables in the report, but the last one that really struck me because of the disparity between students and teachers, was the chart depicting assigning/using the internet for homework/classwork. As you can see, using the internet definitely increases as students age, with daily/once a week use by students in grade 9-12 at 61% or higher, and yet teachers assigning homework that utilizes the internet decreases.

I've only pulled out a few tables/charts from this repor - the ones that struck me. Students are clearly using the internet, using their smartphones, and making choices about technology that helps them learn, regardless of what the schools provide or don't provide. It seems, especially from this last chart, that we are not supporting how students use technology to learn and therefore missing a huge opportunity to create learning experiences that fit students use of technology. It seems we need to talk to students about what they need, rather than just buying technology we think is going to support their learning. Right now, it seems there is a clear mismatch.

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