By Katrina Schwartz
When it comes to using technology in school, the tension between what students and parents want and what schools allow is becoming more apparent -- and more divisive.
Students want more control over how they use technology in school, but many classrooms are still making it difficult. That’s according to the most recent Speak Up 2011 report, “Mapping a Personalized Learning Journey,” which reflects the views of more than 416,000 K-12 students, parents, and educators nationwide surveyed on how technology can enhance the learning environment. They survey is produced by Project Tomorrow, an educational non-profit focused on raising student voices in education policy discussions. The theme for this survey focused on individualized learning paths.
Students aren't just posting personal pictures and stories on Facebook -- it’s just as much a part of their social lives as it is a place where they connect with each other for school work, too. According to the survey, 46 percent of students have used Facebook to collaborate on school projects, and one in 10 high school students have tweeted about an academic subject. Meanwhile, in formal classroom settings, the practice of using these online tools as an acceptable means of learning has been slow: half of all middle and high school students say they can't access social media sites at school. Educational policy makers need to connect the dots between what motivates and encourages students to learn and what’s actually happening in the classroom, the report states.
That connection might be found in students’ own mobile devices. A whopping 45 percent of middle-schoolers and 55 percent of high-schoolers say that they mainly access the Internet through mobile devices. And access to tablets doubled between 2010 and 2011 – up to 26 percent for middle-schoolers and 21percent of high-schoolers. These are increasingly important ways that students can interact with the world, follow their own interests and supplement their school-based learning.
More than half of students – 56 percent of middle-schoolers and 59 percent of high-schoolers -- reported that they would like to be able to use their own devices and learning tools in the classroom, something that many parents surveyed said they would support. But the idea is still met with resistance from administrators, 52 percent of whom said they don't allow students to use any personal mobile device in class, at least partially because a blended learning model represents a shift in the relationship between teacher and student.