It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly technology-dependent world. Computers and mobile devices have become vital to our daily lives. From conducting work and professional activities to online banking and even shopping, nearly everything in today’s landscape has a technology element.
Our dependency has also influenced the youth of today, many of whom spend their time on mobile devices and tablets—something completely unheard of just a decade ago. But it means even our children are familiar with most modern technologies, and sometimes they’re even more comfortable with it than adults.
So, it makes sense our youth would want to leverage some of those newer technologies in their educational environments and for independent learning. Unfortunately, just because they desire access to technology doesn’t necessarily mean they’re getting it. According to research, over half of kindergarten through 12th-grade students have access to a one-to-one device program at school, yet 56 percent of students say they use more technology at home than at school.
Today’s students are interested in working with technology to help further their learning and experience self-directed opportunities.
Julie Evans, Project Tomorrow’s CEO, explains it best in a recent report. While many students “have always self-directed some of their learning,” it’s “the explosion of mobile devices, 24/7 connectivity and digital resources” that allows them to “[leave] adults behind as they explore subjects that interest them in the ways they learn best.”
In other words, technology allows students to take control of their education, but more importantly, provides them access to more effective and relevant solutions.
Why Tech and Mobile Are So Beneficial to Independent Learning
For starters, most educational facilities and programs have limits in terms of what they can offer their students. They cover the basics, including some STEM courses, but many conventional schools lack the resources to teach kids more niche topics.
Many students want access to the courses and content their schools cannot offer. For example, about 58 percent of students polled during Project Tomorrow’s research indicated they want classes dedicated to college preparation and study skills. A further 51 percent want more career and vocational education opportunities.
Online and digital learning opportunities provide exactly the kind of variety today’s students need. The nature of the technology means students immediately have access to a broader range of topics and courses.
Also, learners can access that content from anywhere and at any time, including on and off campus. This flexibility allows students to further their education not just at their pace, but when and where they want. While sitting in a coffee shop or library after school, for instance, they could take another course or two to improve their understanding of a particular topic.
Better yet, almost all students have access to some form of mobile technology, whether it’s a smartphone or a laptop with internet access. A Pew Research Center study reveals 73 percent of teens have smartphones with perpetual internet access.
Many schools prevent their students from using mobile devices in class and on campus to eliminate distractions, which is certainly justifiable in some cases. An alternative may be to fully embrace the technology and allow students to use it to further their education, both as part of a regular curriculum and to take advantage of new opportunities. Some schools are finding the use of laptops in the classroom can be effective in this way.
Project Tomorrow’s research has shown students are already using their mobile devices in this way, and effectively, too. About 84 percent of students claim they use their mobile device for online research. Beyond that, 47 percent say they use their mobile device to email and communicate with teachers while another 40 percent say they use it for taking notes during class.
If they’re already using the technology on their own, doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of said opportunities to further their experiences and educational careers? Maybe parents and educators should begin encouraging kids to do more research and independent learning using their favorite tech devices.