Category Archives: MindShift

Flashback Friday: “Students Speak Up: Trust Us With Devices”

Happy Flashback Friday! Every Friday we focus on Speak Up data, articles, and press releases from the past. This week we’re highlighting MindShift’s article, “Students Speak Up: Trust Us With Devices” from June 2013, which features data from Speak Up 2012 and notes that students want technology in their schools. Check out this snippet from MindShift’s article:

Of the more than 364,000 students surveyed, 65 percent of middle schoolers and 80 percent of high schoolers have access to a smartphone — nearly triple the number reported from the 2008 survey. Speak Up reports that, in the decade since they’ve been collecting data on how new technological tools can transform education, there have been big, dramatic changes. When they took their first survey in 2003, students’ biggest classroom hurdles were access to the Internet and working on outdated computers. Today’s students, however, have surpassed those original blockades to digital learning and are now most concerned that they aren’t able to access the full range of learning tools available to them, due to firewalls that keep them from social networks and a range of websites, as well as school restrictions on their smartphones.

On top of being experts at technology, students are also advocates for the use of technology in schools. A student from Brooklyn Tech High School in Brooklyn, New York, states that his school is “a bit technologically stunted” due to its lack of computers – some that aren’t even connected to the Internet. He also notes that his school’s ban on cell phones, iPads, and laptops is a huge mistake that limits students’ ability to find information quickly and even promotes the use of cell phones for unrelated purposes, such as texting in class. However, having access to devices and high-speed Internet is just one problem that’s waiting to be solved – teachers should also be trained in technology in order to stay up to date with their tech-savvy students.

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Every year, Speak Up offers students an opportunity to share their opinions and ideas about technology use in school to their teachers, principals, superintendents, and even local governments. An example of a question from the student survey is:
Besides not having enough time in your school day, what are the major obstacles to using technology in your school? 

Speak Up provides an easy way for students, parents and educators to participate in local decisions about technology, as well as contribute to the state and national dialogue about educational technology. Data from the surveys – including data regarding online classes – will be released in February 2015. Click here to register for Speak Up 2014 and mark your calendars for the survey’s launch date on October 6!

How games can work in the classroom

While the use of educational technology is a great way to prepare students for the future, none of that is possible without a good teacher. However, teaching and learning should not just be about academic content and retention – it should involve other ways of learning that differ from the traditional “sage on the stage” classroom model.

One method of moving away from a top-down practice of teaching is by incorporating video games into the classroom. While some may see it as a distraction, video games can actually be useful in the classroom because they encourage students to understand knowledge not just through memorization but through interaction. Of course, in order for video games to be effective, teachers will need to continue working directly with students and can then use games as a supplement that increases one-on-one learning.

ST Math – otherwise known as “Jiji math” due to its penguin mascot named Jiji – is just one example of successful game implementation in the classroom. Created by the MIND Research Institute, ST Math provides a fun game-based program that teaches math without using words. The company’s founder, Dr. Matthew Peterson, says his company stays successful by incorporating three classic principles of good teaching:

  1. Interactivity. The students need to come before the curriculum and learning needs to be interactive in order for students to create their own solutions. Rather than having students regurgitate information learned in class, they should be able to generate their own answers in order to have higher retention.
  2. Informative feedback. Unfortunately, the majority of educational games lack in offering feedback other than simple rewards and scores that are no different than standardized test results. Informative feedback provides instant explanations about why an answer is right or wrong so that students can learn from their mistakes.
  3. Intrinsic motivation. The cost of providing informative feedback is that students are no longer motivated by rewards. However, this may not be a bad thing – rather than being motivated by gold stars and smiley faces, students are now motivated to solve the problems instead of just passing the test.
Check out MindShift’s original article, “In the Bustling, Interactive Classroom, A Place for Digital Games” and check out their guide to games and learning here. Educators, how do you use games in the classroom? Let us know in our comments section or on Twitter!

The Independent Project: a Student-Designed School

When Sam Levin was a junior in high school, he noticed three flaws in his school: (1) there was a lack of engagement and mastery, (2) he and his peers did not know how to gather or create data, and (3) the students in his school were unhappy. Instead of letting administrators solve these issues, Levin decided to take matters into his own hands and designed a school that promoted student engagement and development of skills.

Overseen by guidance counselor Mike Powell, The Independent Project began in the fall of 2012 and involved just eight students. Rather than being a group of the school’s top students, the inaugural class of The Independent Project featured a mix of straight-A student and students who were struggling in their classes. “The idea was that it was for students who could manage their time well, were looking for something more than the traditional program, and had a passion for learning,” explains Powell. Given their passion for learning, students were able to create their own school syllabuses and were able to choose their own books and research topics and questions in math, science, social studies, and literature. The students also met with teachers who served more as advisers and helped guide the students through their semester-long individual projects and their three-week long group project.

While The Independent Project created a positive learning environment that enabled students to learn about topics they are passionate about, it did encounter some bumps. The students found it difficult to do peer-to-peer constructive criticism without the guidance of a teacher and also found it difficult to be fully accountable of their learning. Furthermore, the Project continues to struggle in growing in numbers, as most students know it requires more work and would rather stick to traditional teacher-run classrooms. However, despite these difficulties the students of The Independent Project have learned to ask more questions and have gained a greater awareness of how to answer them, as well as have become better at time-management.

To learn more about The Independent Project, watch the video above, read the original article, or visit their website. What do you think about the Independent Project? Let us know!

Speak Up 2013 congressional briefing wrap up

The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations is the first in a two part series to document the key national findings from Speak Up 2013. For the past eleven years, Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up National Research Project has provided schools and districts nationwide and throughout the globe with new insights into how today’s students want to leverage digital tools for learning based upon the authentic, unfiltered ideas of students themselves.

We apologize to everyone who tried to watch the live stream on Tuesday – we unfortunately had Internet connectivity problems without our own building, which led to problems with the live stream. If you were unable to attend the congressional briefing or watch the live stream, you can view the full event on our website or on the video above. 
If you are interested in viewing the full report you can download it from Project Tomorrow’s website here.

Furthermore, in accordance with yesterday’s congressional briefing and release of the report, the findings have been featured across the Internet – notably on T.H.E. Journal, Mind/Shift, and Education Week. Check out the articles below!

One-Third of U.S. Students Use School-Issued Mobile Devices – T.H.E. Journal
Students Want More Alignment of Tech In and Out of School – Mind/Shift
Use of Digital Tools Rises, but ‘STEM’ Gender Gap Persists, Survey Finds – Education Week

Thank you everyone for supporting Speak Up & Project Tomorrow! Stay tuned for more information about our second Congressional Briefing on June 2nd!

Making Learning Mobile: Leveraging Mobile Devices to Transform Teaching and Learning

“This project represents a landmark study in the developing K-12 mobile learning space, this study is important because it gets beyond simply putting a tablet in the hands of students, and it examines how to effectively implement tablets within instruction to improve student learning” 
—Julie Evans, CEO Project Tomorrow

Despite the increase in use of mobile devices as classroom tools, some educators are still skeptical that these devices will distract students rather than enhance the learning environment. We teamed up with Kajeet for Education, the only wireless service provider dedicated to kids and education, to provide Chicago 5th grade and Fairfax County 8th grade students with educationally-managed broadband Android tablets using the Kajeet Sentinel Platform® to connect kids in school and at home. The Making Learning Mobile study evaluates how students use the devices (in school and out of school) to support their schoolwork and extend learning beyond the classroom, and also evaluates how teachers use the tablets to enhance the learning environment.

The study found that students used the tablets for more educational activities than expected. 93% of students used the tablet for Internet research, while 39% used it for completing video projects. Other uses of the device include project work, educational games, checking grades, and communicating with teachers and classmates. Furthermore, acces to Internet at home improved greatly when students were able to take their devices home to perform after school research. Students took advantage of this improvement in Internet access, as the Kajeet software on the devices noted that “three-quarters of the device requests for access to learning or academic websies occurred [after school]”; the software also found that students used the Internet and their devices to research topics discussed in class once they got home.

Students were not the only ones who benefited from tablet use within the classroom. Although teachers are more hesitant about using mobile devices within the classroom, the teachers in the study saw positive changes within the classroom due to the use of tablets. One teacher at Falconer Elementary School in Chicago used tablets for educational games, grade checking, and calendar keeping. Another used it for class polling apps, note taking, and educational games. While teachers are cautious about using a new piece of technology within the classroom, the use of tablets provide a “more meaningful environment for student impact, both in terms of classroom activities as well as extending learning beyond the school day.”

While each school in the study yielded different results due to classroom size, age, and etc., the study found a few common results. Students enjoyed using tablets because they provided easier Internet access at school, enabled students to review class materials and textbooks whenever they wanted to. Teachers enjoyed the tablets due to their flexible use in engaging students in learning and ability to increase student-teacher communications.

Want to learn more about the Making Learning Mobile study? Check out “Tablets for Fifth Graders? Teachers Try Different Tactics” by Katrina Schwartz on MindShift. You can also register for the webinar at and download the complete report from both school districts on the Kajeet website at