(Student flyer created by Speak Up, found at http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/10things_students2015.pdf)
Project Tomorrow is an education nonprofit that conducts national research projects through their Speak Up program. Reading through their 2015 Annual Report, From Print to Pixel: The role of videos, games, animations and simulations within K-12 education, you get a really good sense of the digital future that education is already on the path towards. After surveying roughly 416,000 K-12 students, 40,000 teachers and librarians, 5,000 administrators, and 40,000 parents from over 7,600 schools and 2,600 districts from across the country, this report presents the major digital trends in education. I do not think that it is overly dramatic or empty rhetoric when they say that:
It is now time to understand that this move from a predominant print-based delivery system in education to new learning environments such as those where videos, games, animations and simulations are increasingly the norm for both teachers and students, is both evolutionary and advantageous.
How will this affect my teaching? It is invaluable to know what the norms and expectations are as set by both administrators and students. School principals were asked, “What are the primary benefits of using more digital content within instruction at your school? ” and they responded that it a) increases student engagement in school and learning (80 percent); b) extends learning beyond the school day (69 percent); c) provides a way for instruction to be personalized for each student (60 percent); d) increases the relevancy and quality of instructional materials (60 percent); and e) improves teachers’ skills with technology (51%). Overall, 84% of principals said that they believe effective use of technology is important for student success.
What’s more interesting, when asked what the barriers are to implementing effective technology in the classroom, 57% of principals cited lack of teacher training as their top barrier. Moreover, principals have really high expectations for new teachers, as 76% want new teachers to be fluent in using technology to differentiate instruction and 68% said that they want new teachers to be fluent in using technology to create authentic learning opportunities for students prior to being hired to teach at their school. That is a lot higher than I would have thought. And these opinions now represent the majority of school principals. So, being fluent in educational digital tools may not be 100% crucial to finding a job as a teacher next year, but I certainly cannot take the topic lightly. If I do find a job teaching, I think the value of staying up to date and trained on effective technology resources is obvious, as I certainly do not want my lack of training to ever be perceived as a barrier to student learning by my administration.
What’s even more interesting is that student norms and perceptions truly are changing. When asked to identify the reasons as to why they felt watching online videos is a good way to learn, students had this to say:
1. I can watch it as many times as I need to (61%)
2. Makes it easier to understand difficult concepts (55%)
3. Connects what I am learning to the real world (54%)
4. Fits my learning style (53%)
5. Easy to find videos to help with schoolwork and easy to access on mobile devices (53%)
6. More engaging and keeps my attention (48%)
The majority of students now perceive genuine benefits to online instruction. Beyond that, elementary students especially perceive playing a digital game as a normal way to learn (taken from page 7 of the report):
If the writing on the wall about the future of technology in education was not clear before, it certainly is now. If this is how students want to learn and how they expect to learn, it would be a disservice to them to hold on to other ways of instruction simply because that is how I learned.
Ultimately, though, I think the challenge as a future teacher will be to find ways to effectively incorporate technology into the classroom. Moreover, I hope to never become complacent in any of my methods and strategies and to always want to search for new tools that will help me be a better teacher.