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Speak Up Release of National Findings

As technology continues to constantly change and grow at an incredible rate, it can be difficult to keep track of the impact that it has on the education system in America today. While technology is often characterized as detrimental to the social skills and attention span of young people, it’s important to also look at the variety of benefits that it can provide.

Project Tomorrow, a California-based national education nonprofit, released the findings of their 2013 Speak Up National Research Project on April 8th in Washington, D.C. This project reports on the views of K-12 students on the role of technology in education. Last year, over 400,000 students, parents and educators answered polls on their opinions regarding the use of technology in the classroom and how they hope it will be used in the future.

The 2013 report is titled “The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations,” and it aims to move beyond the “mythology” that exists regarding the role of technology within the education community in the U.S. today. Julie Evans, the CEO of Project Tomorrow, gave the presentation of the project’s findings and how they demonstrated the positive impact that technology can have on students’ learning. The findings highlighted the many ways that technology can benefit students both within the classroom and at home.

Many schools and districts sign themselves up to take the survey because they recognize the need to counteract the idea that technology is harmful to education. Adults assume that children use technology in the same way that adults use technology (as entertainment or to keep in touch with friends), but this survey demonstrates the many innovative ways that children and young adults are benefitting from the use of technology in their classrooms. Computers and tablets are often used to create videos for projects or to access important class information through online portals.

After the release of the national findings, there was a panel discussion with students from public schools in Baltimore, MD, Fairfax, VA and Winchester, VA. The students ranged from 2nd grade to high school and all provided very insightful responses to a variety of questions on how technology is used in their schools and how it affects them. Though it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that all of the students were very pro-technology, the reasoning behind their opinions was far from superficial.

When asked why they enjoyed using technology in school, the most popular responses were the collaboration and research that computers and tablets allow. Through programs like GoogleDocs, students are able to easily work together on group projects, and through websites like Blackboard and Edline, they are able to maintain contact with their teachers even when they’re outside the classroom. On top of this collaboration, students also use the Internet for research and use programs like First In Math to improve their math skills.

Although the students on the panel ranged in age and background, they all seemed to agree on the fact that technology has helped their education in many ways. Whether through a high school coding class or a simple math game played online, the students were all very clear about the fact that technology has given them a wealth of resources that wouldn’t have been available to them if they were students 20 years ago. It’s easy to worry about the negative affects that technology can have on children, but it’s equally important to be open to the wide array of benefits that it can provide.

Bethany Tietjen, CER Intern


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