Digital access, collaboration a must for students


About one-third of middle and high school students reported they are unable to access personal communications accounts or send messages to classmates during the school day—something the report notes is a “major obstacle to using technology more at school.”

Students also indicated they would like to use those same communication tools to correspond with teachers electronically.

Ninety-one percent of parents communicate via text message, instant message, or eMail, and 51 percent use a social networking web site.

But when asked which technology tools would best drive student achievement, only 20 percent of parents identified collaboration tools such as blogs, social networking sites, or wikis. One-third cited communication tools such as eMail or text messaging.

Almost half (47 percent) of middle school students and 40 percent of high school students said discussing how to solve a problem with classmates and helping other students with their problems would be the most helpful instructional techniques or learning methodologies in mathematics.

The same social-based learning approach also appeared in middle and high school students’ responses to how they would like to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math career fields. More than half of students in both groups said that meeting successful role models and talking to professionals about their jobs would be helpful.

Untethered learning

More than half of middle and high school students have access to iPods, desktop computers, laptops/tablets/netbooks, and a cell phone without internet capabilities. Nearly 60 percent of students in grades 3-5 and almost 40 percent of K-2 students had access to an iPod.

But although students have access to a wide range of personal technologies, when asked to identify the major obstacles preventing technology use in their schools, the top response from students in grades 6-12 was, “I cannot use my own cell phone, smart phone, or mp3 player.”

That marked the first time school filters and firewalls have not been reported as the No. 1 obstacle for student technology use in school.

If allowed at school, 70 percent of high school students and almost 65 percent of middle school students would use mobile devices to look up information on the internet. More than half of both groups would work on projects with classmates, and nearly half (48 percent of high school students and roughly 45 percent of middle school students) would access online textbooks.

When asked to recommend how schools could make technology use for schoolwork easier, the top five student responses indicated that access is key. Students (1) want to use their own cell phones, smart phones, or mp3 players; (2) would like to use their own laptops or netbooks; (3) said unlimited internet access throughout schools is important; (4) reported that social networking access is desirable; and (5) said they would like tools to help them communicate with classmates.

Teachers’ biggest concerns about using mobile devices in the classroom include student distractions (67 percent); access issues, with not all students having mobile devices (55 percent); and concerns over students cheating with the devices (30 percent). Roughly one-fifth said they do not know how to use the devices within instruction effectively (21 percent) or would need curriculum resources to support the use of mobile devices in class (20 percent).

While students say internet access is essential at school, many parents said they are concerned about their children meeting strangers online (75 percent), sharing too much personal information (73 percent), encountering child predators (72 percent), and encountering inappropriate web sites (67 percent).

Fewer than half of parents (41 percent) said they believe their child’s school has effective processes in place for internet safety and protecting personal information. Forty-one percent of high school students and 38 percent of middle school students said they know how to be safe and protect themselves online.

Student interest in online learning is increasing, but students reported that a lack of information about available classes and logistical steps for taking an online class are their primary barriers.

High school students’ top reasons for taking an online class are working at their own pace (51 percent), earning college credit (49 percent), and taking classes not offered at their own schools (44 percent). Middle school students reported the same reasons, as well as a desire to obtain extra help on schoolwork.

Laura Ascione
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