Students are becoming used to reading content digitally, and very few don’t have some kind of online identity or account already, according to the latest Speak Up survey results. These findings have important implications for how students expect to learn in school.

The percentage of middle school students who said they own a personal eReader device more than doubled in the last year, from 17 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2012. Only 4 percent of high school students and 7 percent of middle school students said they don’t manage any online accounts—and 12 percent of students said they own at least 20 different online accounts.

What’s more, 15 percent of high school students say they’ve taken at least one self-study online class, an increase of 50 percent since 2010. An additional 15 percent of high school students and 9 percent of middle school students have participated in an online class led by a teacher.

While the numbers are still small in terms of online class participation, “the interest in online learning is creating a new supply/demand problem for many schools and districts,” the 2013 Speak Up report said.

Four out of 10 students in grades 6-12 who have not taken an online class now say that they’d like to do so. Yet one-quarter of district administrators say that they cannot find enough teachers interested or qualified to teach online classes—and that’s holding up their expansion of online learning opportunities for students.

Students’ most frequent complaints about limits placed on their technology use at school are…

(1) School filters and firewalls block websites I need.
(2) I cannot access my social media sites.
(3) I cannot use my own mobile device in class.
(4) There are too many rules about using technology at school.
(5) I cannot use text messaging.

“I would say that kids should be able to use their phones in middle school,” a seventh-grade girl from Ohio said. “Whenever I’m doing schoolwork at home and I get stuck on a question, I just go on my phone and look it up. We should be allowed to do that in school, too.”

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