Project Tomorrow Reveals 'Sense of Urgency' Around Digital Learning

Though this increased sense of urgency exists, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, according to a new report.

by / April 30, 2015

The ultimate learning experience for students is supported by mobile devices and digital content, and is both highly collaborative and extremely personalized, according to Project Tomorrow, which on April 30 presented the findings of its latest Speak Up report in Washington D.C.

Each year, Project Tomorrow — a nonprofit organization that works to make students’ voices heard in education — polls students, parents and educators about the role of technology in education in and out of the classroom, and their views and aspirations for how technology should be used in the future. This year’s report, Digital Learning 24/7: Understanding Technology – Enhanced Learning in the Lives of Today’s Students, provides findings on the efficacy and value associated with popular digital learning initiatives, including blended learning, online learning, school-assigned mobile devices and STEM. The views, values and experiences of students taking part in these digital learning initiatives are compared with students in more traditional classroom-based education.

“The key trend revealed is that there is an increased sense of urgency to use digital tools and content in learning,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “At the same time, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

This year, nearly half of teachers (47 percent) polled said their students have regular access to mobile devices in their classrooms. Among high school students, 58 percent said they now use their own mobile device at school to support learning activities.
The primary challenge, said Evans, is how to leverage the power of such technology tools to personalize learning.

The report also found that digital equity and access, particularly outside of school, remains an issue important to administrators. Of note this year, among students using mobile devices provided by their schools, half (51 percent of high school students and 46 percent of middle school students) say that their Internet connectivity outside of school is through a mobile data plan.

“Today, seven out of 10 teachers assign homework that requires use of the Internet,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “Yet our research shows that one out of three households don’t subscribe to broadband. Students that lack broadband access are not only at a disadvantage themselves, they are also holding our entire education system back.”

Rosenworcel also said that students who lack access to technology are not only at a disadvantage while in school, but also as they enter the workforce.

“We need a cooperative effort and creative ideas to solve this issue and help make our kids not just digital consumers, but digital creators,” she said. “This homework gap is the cruelest part of our new digital divide, but it’s within our power to bridge it.”

Not to be forgotten, there are still students who report no regular access to technology in schools: 13 percent of high school students and 21 percent of middle school students, to be exact.

Today’s presentation also included a moderated panel discussion with K-12 students regarding digital learning.

“We hope ... highlighting the views and values of today’s students, especially those students who are living a digital learning experience, [in] this year’s report stimulates new discussions around the effective use of digital tools, resources and content to support student learning,” Evans said.

Justine Brown Contributing Writer