On April 1, 2011, Project Tomorrow released their new report, The New 3 E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered – How Today’s Students are Leveraging Emerging Technologies for Learning at a Congressional briefing held in Washington, DC. Over the past 15 years, Project Tomorrow has been polling students, teachers, administrators, and parents about their experience in school, what they like and don’t like, and how they would imagine their perfect school. As their report indicates:  “The Speak Up National Research Project annually polls K-12 students, parents, and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school and represents the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder voice on digital learning.” Since 2003 over 2.2 million stakeholders have been polled.
Part of their report was to compare the behavior of 6th  grade students today to sixth grade students just five years ago, utilizing the Speak Up data.
  • In 2005, half of the 6th graders said they had a cell phone. Today, that statistic still holds true but an additional one-third say they now have a smart phone.
  • Almost 73% of 6th graders have an MP3 player today – compared to one-third in 2005.
  • In 2005, the 6th graders complained about Internet at their school being too slow; today, their number one complaint is that school filters and firewalls block websites they need for their schoolwork.
  • Half of all 6th graders take tests online today and three times as many have taken an online class as in 2005.
  • 25% of today’s 6th graders are already using an e-textbook.
  • And in 2010, almost half of all 6th grade girls and over a third of 6th grade boys were regularly updating their social networking site, an increase of over 125% since 2005. All of this despite the fact that many of those 6th graders are not old enough to legally register on many social networking sites.
The 2010 Speak Up data shows three strong key trends in K-12 education.
  • Key Trend 1: Mobile Learning - Educational experiences that are enabled by mobile devices and applications provide a multitude of un-tethered opportunities for students to be more engaged in learning and extend the learning process beyond the classroom.
  • Key Trend 2: Online and Blended Learning -  Online and blended learning enables a greater personalization of the learning process and facilitates opportunities for students to collaborate with peers and experts, thus empowering a new sense of personal ownership of the learning process by the student.
  • Key Trend 3: E-Textbooks  -  The use of e-textbooks and other digitally rich content engages students by providing a real world context for the learning process and allowing learning to extend beyond the classroom walls.
The 2010 data also uncovered a new trend: Parental Digital Choice.  
  • 67% of parents would purchase a mobile device for their child to use for schoolwork if the school allowed it (and 54% would purchase a data plan to allow internet connectivity).
  • A majority of parents believe that mobile devices can help extend learning beyond the school day; 61% like the idea of students using mobile devices to access online textbooks.
  • Parents are five times more likely to recommend online classes for the ultimate school than in 2008.
  • 53% of parents support online tutors and tools to help their children organize their schoolwork.
  • Two-thirds of parents would include brain-teasers and advanced topics in e-textbooks to extend their child’s learning.
As the report summarizes: “Bottom line on this new trend: Parents have always been allies and advocates for their children in the traditional school environment. With new digital choices, today’s parents are now enabling greater educational opportunities for their children, both in and out of school, and at the same time, empowering a new paradigm for the role of parents in education.”

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