If there’s one thing different generations can agree on, it’s that technology isn’t like Justin Bieber: Nearly everyone loves their smart phone—but you have to be a child of the late 90s to really love Bieber. Highlighting this bit of cultural knowledge is a new report that reveals it’s not just students who love using 21st-century technology; it’s many of the adults in education, too—and the adults are translating this love into classroom practice.
According to the ninth annual “Speak Up” survey, facilitated by the nonprofit group Project Tomorrow and supported by numerous companies, education associations, and think tanks, while only 46 percent of all Americans report using a smart phone, more than 70 percent of school principals and district administrators use these always-connected devices, making them early adopters of technology their students crave.
And it’s this early adoption—and the realization of the benefits of technology for anytime, anywhere access to information and communication—that’s spurring support for student use of smart phones, tablets, and online learning in and out of the classroom, the 2011-12 Speak Up data suggest.
“For many of us, we cannot truly appreciate the value of a new technology tool until we have realized a direct benefit from its use in our personal work life,” explained Julie Evans, president and CEO of Project Tomorrow. “That’s the same for educators. We found that teachers, principals, and administrators who are mobile users more highly value the benefits of using mobile devices within learning than their peers.”
According to the report, teachers and administrators use technology in myriad ways, such as participating in webinars; creating multimedia presentations; participating in online professional learning communities; creating and uploading videos, music, and photos; reading and/or posting to blogs and wikis; updating a social networking site; and using Twitter to communicate or follow others.
What’s even more startling is the increase in the use of these technologies among educators. For example, in 2007, only one in five teachers was involved with an online professional learning community (PLC), but four years later more than a third of teachers are collaborating with peers through an online PLC. Also, in 2007, only 36 percent of teachers said they regularly downloaded music for classroom use; that figure stands at 65 percent today.
By analyzing how teachers, librarians, and administrators are using technology for their professional career, the report aims to reveal how those experiences are driving new plans and policies for technology use in school.
To better understand how the increased familiarity of educators to new technologies is changing the classroom experience, the report focused on the views of three subsets of teachers, principals, and district administrators: “mobilists,” who are using a smart phone or tablet; “online learners,” who have taken an online course for their own professional development; and “digital content producers,” who are regularly using digital content for their work tasks.
According to the report, more than 40 percent of administrators who are mobile users are currently evaluating a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach, compared to just 19 percent of all administrators.
Also, nearly 30 percent of the mobilist administrators provide school-owned devices (like laptops, tablets, and iPod Touch players) for student use, compared to just 13 percent of all administrators.