Project Tomorrow: Personalized, Powered Up and Hyper-Connected Learning

CEO, One-to-One Institute

Progress in schools! It is gratifying to witness the advances being made across the nation.  This year’s Project Tomorrow Speak-Up results demonstrate the headway made in transforming schools to personalized, powered up, hyper-connected ecosystems.  The evidence is clear when you compare the results from just a few short years ago. See for yourself in the summary below.

My top of mind observations:

  • Students, parents/caregivers, have been drivers of the ‘technology’ disruption/integration. While we know there are state and federal mandates (online testing) that have been a force behind schools buying technology, it is clear that years ago students and their families put tech in the hands of young people and expected to be able to utilize them within the learning environment.  Where students powered down at the school house doors just 2 years ago – a high percentage of those environments are finding or have found ways for learners to effectively bring in and use their devices.  A high percentage of schools are also providing them.
  • The presence and enhancement of a number of ed tech oriented learning experiences have proliferated. Some not even a presence or integrated experiences in 2012: online and blended learning; online collaborations with peers and teachers and between home and school.
  • Another manifest is the distinct connection between technologically powered learning with college and career prep; students call it their readiness for their futures. Common Core clearly has informed this crusade. However, many in the ecosystem are seeing and understanding this connection.
  • Personalization and competency based learning are major drivers today. This year’s findings relay how learners are experiencing personal agency in the learning process where they are widely using technology.  These are major necessary shifts for education and appear to be able to be well facilitated where students and teachers effectively use ed tech.
  • Sadly, it is clear that students in high powered technology learning environments have very different experiences from those without. This is creating a have and have not scenario – one which we have worked so hard to avert.  The hope is in the fact that the transformations are happening and widely; but clearly not everywhere. Efforts via ConnectEd and other major initiatives have got to help the equal access imperative. In addition, local leaders and communities must find ways to include their young people in this century’s learning world.

Below are the key report findings from 2012 and 2014. Compare and contrast for yourselves.

2012 Key Findings

  • With smartphone usage dramatically on the rise — 65 percent of students in grades 6-8 and 80 percent of students in grades 9-12 are smartphone users– a main concern among today’s digital learners is how to leverage the unique features of different devices, from laptops to smartphones to tablets or digital readers, and use them for certain academic tasks.
  • While only 21% of teachers in middle and high schools are assigning Internet homework on a weekly basis, 69% of high school seniors, 61% of high school freshman and 47% of 6th graders are online at least weekly to find resources to support their homework
  • In just one year, the number of middle school students with a personally acquired, digital reader more than doubled from 17 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2012.
  • In fall 2011, 26 percent of students in grades 6-8 said that they had a personal tablet computer. In one year’s time, the percentage of middle school students with tablets jumped to 52 percent,a doubling over the 2011 percentage.
  • Despite this increase of mobile devices in the hands of students, schools are still reluctant to allow them. Among high school students with smartphones, only half say they can use their device at school and only nine percent of students say they can use their personal tablets at school. With 73 percentage of high school seniors saying they have a laptop, only 18 percent of the Class of 2013 say they are allowed to use their personal laptop at school.

2014 Key Findings

  • Whether driven by parental demands for increased personalization or higher goals for student achievement, many administrators are finding that blended learning environments hold great promise. In fact, 45 percent of district administrators in this year’s Speak Up surveys indicate that the implementation of blended learning models within their district was already yielding positive results.
  • Students in blended environments use technology more frequently than their peers in more traditional classroom settings.In addition to use in the classroom, these students are also more likely to self-direct their learning outside of school by tapping into mobile apps, finding online videos to help with homework, emailing their teachers with questions and posting content they create online for comment.
  • When students have access to technology as part of their learning, especially school-provided or enabled technology, their use of the digital tools and resources is deeper and more sophisticated.
  • The availability of online learning continues to increase with only 27 percent of high school principals reporting that they are not yet offering any online courses for students. Interest among students continues to grow, with 24% of high school students saying they wish they could take all their classes online – a large increase from 8% in 2013.
  • Almost three-quarters of students with school-provided devices as well as students with limited or non-existent technology access at school agreed that every student should be able to use a mobile device during the school day for learning.
  • Students connect the use of technology tools within learning to the development of college, career, and citizenship skillsthat will empower their future capabilities.
  • Digital experiences for students in a 100 percent virtual environment are much different than those in traditional schools. For instance, 72 percentof high school students in virtual schools take online tests, compared with 58 percent of traditional students.
  • Students see the smartphone as the ideal device for communicating with teachers (46%) and classmates (72%) and for social media (64%).

Infographic: The New Digital Learning Playbook: Mobile Learning

Flyer: Top Ten Things Everyone Should Know About K-12 Students’ Views on Digital Learning

Leslie Wilson, founder and CEO of One-to-One Institute, has served education for 38+ years  in top level, key decision-making roles at state and local levels. Recognized as an international expert in education technology, Wilson is a frequent writer, presenter and interviewee. Among her many publications, she co-authored, “Project RED-The Technology Factor, Nine Keys to Student Achievement and Cost Effectiveness” which is the most broadly used research around successful implementation of 1:1 technologies in schools.  

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