Top 10 Things Learned From Students About Educational Technology, K-12
Here are some results from the Speak Up 2007 Student Surveys.

1. Digital Divide is Alive and Well
The digital divide between students and adults (including teachers and parents) continues to widen – despite all of the investments and professional development, students are still powering down to go to school and powering up after school to re-enter the digital world. Other digital divides exist as well between segments of the student population including gender, technology skill self-assessment and age.

2. Spectrum of Digital Native-ness
The Speak Up data reveals that there is a spectrum of “digital native-ness” today with younger and older students exhibiting increasingly divergent tech behaviors as well as very different attitudinal views on technology within learning. Case in point – a 5th grader is almost 5X more likely to participate regularly in a virtual world than an 11th grader.

3. Explosion of Access to Mobile Devices
Today’s students are carrying “multiple computers in their pockets and backpacks” everyday. Almost 40% of K-2 students have their own cell phone, about half of 3-5 students have their own MP3 player and almost 24% of middle and high school students are carrying around a smartphone or PDA.

4. New Obstacles to Tech Use @ School
Technology use at school is still a major frustration/disappointment factor for the overwhelming majority of students. #1 obstacle to effective tech use (for the 5th year in a row) is school filters and firewalls. The real surprise was this year’s #2 obstacle – teachers that limit technology use. The students told focus groups that they had better access to technology before their teachers received training on technology use.

5. Let Me Use My Own Devices!
What advice do students have for their schools about improving technology access at school? Across the board, the students say “let me use my own devices at school!” Students want to be able to use their own laptops, cell phones, MP3 players and Smartphones for a variety of applications within instruction. They also want access to the network from anywhere on campus and from home, too.

6. Online Learning – Defying Conventional Wisdom
One-quarter of all high school students have already had experience with an online class – and that experience most likely was self-initiated by the student, not the school or the teacher. Adults say that students want to take an online class for scheduling or convenience reasons or to get college credit. However, the survey found that the students have different motivating reasons. Today’s middle school students tell us that the #1 reason they would like to take an online class is as a supplement to their traditional class, not in place of that class. They want additional help in a subject where they are struggling.

7. 21st Century Skills and Gaming
Students say that the incorporation of gaming technologies within instruction will help them better develop skills in critical thinking, decision-making, teamwork and creativity. Over 2/3 of all K-12 students are regularly interacting with some kind of electronic games, averaging 8-10 hours a week in game play. The devices vary greatly by user profile however. Girls are most likely to enjoy computer based games; younger students thrive in a cell phone game environment.

8. Technology and Student Social Activism
While the majority of social network fans are using their MySpace or Facebook sites for standard communications (email, IM), 10% of students in grades 6-8 stated that they have created a special interest group on their personal Web site about an issue that they were interested in, 15% have participated in an online poll about world issues, and 17% regularly use the Internet to research local or world problems.

9. Wake Up Call for Our Nation’s Schools
The students that perceive themselves as technology advanced compared to their peers (average tech users and beginners) have dramatically different views on technology across the board. This self-assessment divide follows through when students were polled about their own school’s ability to prepare them for the jobs and careers of the 21st century. While less than half of the students in grades 6-12 said that their school was doing a good job preparing them for the future, only 23% of the technology advanced students held that same view.

10. The New Face of Personalized Learning – the Free Agent Learner
The #1 trend seen in 2008 from the Speak Up data analysis work and focus group discussions with students all across the country is the emergence of the “Free Agent Learner.” This Free Agent Learner is untethered to traditional school institutions, is engrossed in developing their own content for learning, regularly creates new communities for knowledge exchanges and social interaction, and is an expert in data aggregation to drive experiential learning. The Free Agent Learners believe they must be responsible for their own learning destiny since their school is not meeting their needs, and are empowered by a wide variety of emerging technologies.