For the past seven years I have been surveying my students about their level of technology access at home. Initially, my data just reflected the students in my classroom. However, as I have moved to a district-level position I have helped teachers survey their own students. Earlier this year, teachers from our Digital Writing and Multimedia User groups were interested in surveying their students. We wondered, “Just how many of them do have cell phones…or MP3 players…or home Internet access?” What started out as a survey for probably 500 students grew to a survey that has been completed by just over 1600 kids and the information is quite interesting.
- 93.3% of the students surveyed reported having a computer at home with 92.9% of those computers connected to the Internet
- 72.0% of students have a cell phone and 66.5% of students are bringing cell phones to school
- The most common type of cell phone is one that can download and install apps, such as an iPhone or Droid (47.1%)
- 77.4% of students have an MP3 player and the most common device is an iPod Touch (52.4%)
Keep in mind that approximately 47% of the students who completed the survey are socioeconomically disadvantaged (we used a weighted average to estimate this – not perfect, but the best we could do). However, our district is located in an largely suburban community where most homes have access to broadband Internet and cellular service. The results of this survey raise some interesting possibilities including:
- Expanded Cloud Computing: Since many of our students reported having computer at home connected to the Internet, cloud-based computing resources, such as Google Apps and Moodle have the potential to extend the learning day beyond the traditional 8am-3pm school schedule.
- Blended Learning: The level of technology access at home and carried by students to school in the form of cell phones or MP3 players could provide opportunities for us to employ various models of blended learning across grade levels. This might take the form of students being introduced to or reviewing content through teacher-produced instructional videos on their personal phones, iPods, or home computers.
- Bring Your Own Devices: The most commonly found MP3 players (iPod Touch) and cell phones (iPhone/Droid) both have the capability of installing apps and utilizing wifi connections. As school sites seek to increase student access to online materials in the classroom, they might consider developing a formal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program through the creation of appropriate policies, procedures, and professional learning for teachers.
- Ensuring Equitable Access: While a significant majority of our students reported home technology and Internet access, the survey does not report the exact level of access or type of hardware students have at home. Teachers and school sites should plan for variances in the type of home access and provide computing resources at school before, after, and during the instructional day. Schools may consider opening computer labs before and after school so that students can utilize these resources beyond the instructional day.
I would never claim that the results of these surveys are statistically perfect and there is variation from school site to school site, but they do provide a glimpse into student technology access. Each year I provided the survey to my own students, I was always surprised by the findings. This year is no different. I am reminded that in order to appropriately plan for technology programs we need to spend time surveying our students and listening to their voice.