Schools and Students Clash Over Use of Technology

| May 21, 2012 | 36 Comments
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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.

65 percent of school principals said it was unlikely they would allow personal devices in the coming school year.

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.

Although a nascent Bring Your Own Technology (or Device) movement is beginning to take shape, a full 65 percent of school principals said it was unlikely they would allow personal devices in the coming school year.  This, in spite of the fact that students say the devices will help them, and nearly two-thirds of parents said they would support their children using personalized devices to learn in school. What’s more, parents from across income categories were willing to buy devices for their children in order to increase their interest and engagement in learning.

When parents were asked what most concerns them about their children’s future almost three-quarters said they worry that their children won’t “get the right skills” to succeed in the future.

But students might have to look outside of school for this. Already, 12 percent of high school students have taken an online class on their own, outside of the classroom, to learn about a topic that interested them.

Blended learning classrooms, where students can fluidly use technology as learning tools, may encourage more interest in science and math subjects, too. In the survey, 20 percent of students in classrooms without much technology expressed a strong interest in STEM careers, whereas 27 percent of their counterparts in more student-directed and technology focused classrooms reported interest in the subjects. This indicates that the way kids learn seems to influence what they’re interested in pursuing.

This recent survey clearly points to a disconnect between students’ interest in how they want to learn, and their lack of access to these tools in schools.

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  • Jennifer M Gray

    The realm of public education in most of California is just trying to get students fluent enough to pass the tests…we don’t have the time or the money to worry about technology in the classroom. Get rid of the oppressive pacing calendars and insane testing goals and perhaps we can focus on creativity and progress again.

    • Dan McGuire

       Maybe the realm of public education in most of California should try using technology to get students fluent enough to pass tests AND be creative and progressive at the same time.

  • know it some

    no cell phones in class!!!!!!

  • Susan Ramnarine-singh

    Most schools welcome technology however there needs to be policies and procedures in place so misuse is prevented.

  • Mrs. Sitter

    I’ve seen both extremes…which proves that we have such a dynamic group of learners on our hands at all times.  Academically they may test excellently using the old worksheet and multiple choice style and socially they are dependent on their smartphone.  There is a wide grey area.  We’re expecting them to develop metacognition while they have 7 tabs open (including but not limited to Facebook, Grooveshark, Twitter, NinjaKiwi, Pinterest and their research sites) which some use with no drawbacks while others become numb and zone out.  

    They need to be engaged and challenged, not spoon fed and bored stiff.

    • Jaapvanhelleman

      Amen! It would help a lot if more colleagues Would enter the 21st century….

  • Paul B.

    First of all, because people can’t really multitask (we just shift back and forth between tasks, and lose efficiently) and just because cell phones exist is no reason to allow them in schools.
    I have seen little evidence that allowing cell phones and constant communication does anything to develop critical thinking skills.   If anything, it’s the opposite.  Students who are allowed cell phones in school at all times will continue to blur the line between what should be focus with their immediate surroundings and classmates and the constant temptations of leisure and distraction.

  • Paul B.

    In addition, how students want to learn is irrelevant if there isn’t any proof that what they want is more effective in creating thoughtful, informed, and effective students.

    • Jeff

      Yes there is. Go wikipedia June 16th 1976 South Africa. Pretty good example of how students who know what they want can force adults to be a little bit more thoughtful, informed and effective.

  • Gericar

    “Students Demand” I love that…. remember those are people who just learned to feed themselves. Has our youth culture reached the point at which we think children know what is best for themselves? It will be hambergers, pop, tattoos and cell phones until their parents die from overwork trying to support their gadget habits. Let’s not try to be the cooool one. Let’s act like adults and then we can get on with real learning and creativity, say it with me…”the answer is no….the subject is closed”….  

  • Jeff

    Will post up in staff common room. I run a BYOD class, some of which I blog about, from time to time. But here in Africa, find my students’ response to a blended environment has been a slow start. What was cool today though was I asked if they wanted a step by step example, right away several iPods and phones appeared and recorded the instruction. So what’s cool is that the boy with the iPod could upload this step by step video to our class Dropbox, and now all my classes can share and make use of this video. It is interesting how much better my teaching is becoming because they are collaborating at this level.

    • The ELearning Site

      Interesting Jeff – want to write about this on would love to receive a guest blog post from you

  • Susan

    I think it is great for students to use technology and share at the same time.  But students need structure and know when and what is appropriate to video and post.  Some individuals do not want their faces shown even if it is a demonstration.  How is confidentiality secured?

    • J. Van Helleman

      This is a point of discusion as old as computers, boiling simply down to: sounds great but how do I keep 100% control of what my pupils do? The answer is, I am afraid, you do not. You will always have some kids going of the deeper end. What you do with those is what teaching is all about: you talk to them and teach them how to do this right. The role of the teacher here is crucial. We have to be part of proces in order to guide the pupils along.

  • Anonymous

    I did just fine without a smartphone.  Show me the EVIDENCE.  A survey doesn’t mean anything, I want a million dollars doesn’t mean I should have it.

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  • 123

    This follows the American idea that experts are bad, if a student says it helps them then who is any one to say no. Kids use cell phones to text their friends. Internet requires data plan and most kids wont pay the money. If you think otherwise, you are not in the classroom.

  • Anni

    technology in the classroom, including cell phones, helps students understand
    the importance of connecting to the outside world. More importantly when
    students are “banned” from using their cell phones in school buildings it
    encourages them to “fight the system” and be devious with their devices. If
    school administrators and teachers (which I am one of) would take the responsibility
    and educate their students in a technology invested age not only in the core
    subject areas but now in the new area of technology and its uses our students
    would become better global competitors. It is time for educators to think
    outside of the box and understand how influential technology can be (including
    cell phones) in the classroom for all ages    

  • Molinger

    I cannot imagine sitting in a class without my computer to take notes or look up information to supplement my own learning. I say JUMP into the technology pool of learning.  The water is only going to get deeper as time progresses.  Might as well learn to swim in the shallows.

  • Tameka Jackson

    Who is the author of this article? I would like to contact them about data for my dissertation

  • dabate lover

    students deserve to have computers or cell phones in class for learning tools. if you have a computer you can add books on its or textbooks and it wouldnt kill your back because of all the heaviness.

  • Muhammad Lal

    nice info you have shared here, i like you post. technology.have made very advancement in today’s world but i think use of technology in the classroom but no i would want to say here that use of technology in school level is not good, when student are using this type of technology in the school level age then forget the respect of specially those people who use it but do not know more about it then the student thinks that there are more advancement but they forget it they who make it possible to advance you. a last i want to say you again that no mobilein the classroom….

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  • William Presenod

    Although this article is 2 years old, it still is an issue today. I believe that technology should be used for collaboration, but only outside the classroom. Allowing students to have free open technology in the class takes away the point of actually being in the classroom.

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