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Digital Learning Trends

by Lori Gracey
digital learning trends

The Speak Up 2016 survey results are starting to come in, and they’re showing some interesting trends in digital learning. Below are the seven concepts that are bubbling up to the top right now.

Trend #1

No surprise here. Superintendents are reporting that funding, bridging the achievement gap, and staff morale are their top concerns. These are the same concerns that have topped their list for the past six years. However, the level of concern on these topics has increased this year.

With the attacks from the media recently on the teaching profession, it’s certainly understandable why staff morale is low. And with reduced funding at both the state and national levels, there is even more reason for teachers to be unhappy right now. The achievement gap, despite the best efforts of our educators, seems to be growing as the digital divide across our country grows.

Trend #2

There is some good news, however. Campus leaders are reporting that data-informed instruction, social media communications, and online assessments are making a difference with today’s students. Other technology enhancements that seem to have a positive ROI include videos, simulations and animations within instruction; cloud-based applications and tools; student access to mobile devices in school; and online professional development for teachers. These might be good trends to investigate for your district this next school year. (If you need help planning for and implementing any of these, TCEA can help. Just email Dr. Bruce Ellis to get started.)

Trend #3

Online videos and online games top the list of digital content being used in the classroom now, with online curriculum and online textbooks following closely behind. The key takeaway from this result is that school districts (and their technology staff) must be planning for and providing greater bandwidth and more WiFi access as the need for online learning continues to grow. This is a trend that will only continue to grow over time.

Trend #4

Student use of devices shows some interesting changes. 58 percent of high school students and 25 percent of middle school students are now bringing their own devices to school for classwork. But how they choose to use those devices on their own is different from how their teachers are directing them to use them. When teachers direct, students use them to:

  • Do Internet research (81%)
  • Play educational games (60%)
  • Take online tests (50%)
  • Read online articles (37%)
  • Use online textbooks (32%)
  • Watch teacher-created videos (29%)

But when self-directed, those same devices are used by the students to:

  • Check grades (74%)
  • Look up class information (54%)
  • Email teachers (41%)
  • Receive reminders (39%)
  • Take notes (39%)
  • Take photos of assignments (29%)

This seems to indicate that the learners are using the technology for more productivity uses on their own, which may mean that they have internalized and adopted them more completely than their teachers. This would be a good discussion topic for future educator inservices.

Trend #5

This is a continuation of the previous trend, which shows that the four main groups surveyed (teachers, administrators, parents, and students) all remain on different pages when technology use for learning is discussed. According to the report, “Few teachers say they regularly assign Internet-dependent homework, more principals think Internet-dependent homework is being assigned, but students say they regularly use the Internet to help with homework.”

Trend #6

The report shows that social media is playing a larger role in learning for all surveyed.

  • In 2011, 50 percent of students in grades 6-12 said they could not access social media tools at school. In 2016, only 38 percent of students had the same complaint.
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of teachers said that they pinned a lesson on Pinterest in the past year and 19 percent use Twitter to follow education experts or fellow educators.
  • Eight of ten school principals say they are using social media to communicate with parents and students – 61 percent said it has a positive impact.

There continues to be a divide between social media used by students (Instagram and Snapchat) and that used by adults (Facebook). But 44 percent of students do say that social media is a must-have for their learning.

Trend #7

Parents more than ever prefer receiving a personal email from their child’s school. Face-to-face meetings and text messages were a distant second, as you can see from the chart below.

digital learning tools

From a report by Project Tomorrow

The results of this extensive survey with its longitudinal data should be shared and discussed at district leadership meetings and professional development sessions in every district. What are your students telling you?


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