News from FETC: Mobile Devices Catalyze Personalized Learning

Posted by Matt Berringer on February 2, 2014

During FETC, Julie Evans—CEO of Project Tomorrow, one of the national’s leading education nonprofit organizations—presented research findings from Speak Up 2013, a national survey about the use of digital tools and resources in schools, and shared insights gained during the Speak Up National Research Project.

Evans says more than a decade of research has shown that U.S. students want a more personalized learning environment.

“This generation of students is growing up very interested in personalized learning. They like the idea of learning within a social-based environment, where they can collaborate with peers and experts. They like the idea of not having learning tied or tethered to physical resources or even their geography,” Evan said. “They also look at the input of digital content and the digital component of the learning experience not just [to create] engagement … but also [because it] creates relevancy and context for the learning process.”

DSC_0048Data from the Speak Up 2013 indicates that students see their mobile devices as a catalyst for “transforming the learning process” and use the tools as follows:

Anytime research – Info in their hands: 60 percent
Access educational games: 43 percent
Collaborate with classmates: 40 percent
Receive reminders and alerts: 33 percent
Take photos of assignments: 24 percent
Participate in class polls: 18 percent
Text teachers questions during class: 12 percent

In the search for the “Holy Grail” of one-to-one devices, Evans says the survey data showed that no one mobile device reigns supreme with students—instead they prefer to use the right tool for the task. When not at school, though, 64 percent of middle and high school students say their primary access to the Internet is through a 3G and 4G device and 23 percent indicate that it’s through a television or Wii connection.

“What the students are telling us in our focus groups is that when they have Internet-based homework or they want to do research or they want to follow their self-directed passion for learning at home, quite often there is contention for that access,” explained Evans. “Mom and dad are using that computer. A couple of siblings are also doing homework. The number one thing they tell us is that they don’t have to fight with anyone to get online [through these devices]. They love that personalized access.”

These are just a sampling of the findings from Speak Up 2013 that Evans presented at FETC. During fall 2013, more than 400,000 individuals from more than 9,000 schools, 2,700 districts, and the community participated in the survey. Participating schools will get access to their local data and the national data on Wednesday, February 5, which is Digital Learning Day.

Since 2003, Project Tomorrow has conducted this annual online survey about the use of digital tools and resources. The findings of this research have helped educators understand how they can impact student learning through the use of digital tools and resources.

Visit the organization’s website at for more information.

Copyright Project Tomorrow 2014
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Topics: education, 21st-Century Learner, K-12