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From Chalkboards to Tablets: The Emergence of the K-12 Digital Learner

Speak Up 2012 National Findings K-12 Students

June 2013

“The results being released today show that we are indeed in a new world. And we as adults need to learn from kids in this instance. We need to learn from students about how they learn, where they learn, and how they seek information. I believe we must harness this information to give all students a 21st century skill set to prepare them for high-growth, high-demand jobs in the global economy.”

—U.S. Rep. George Miller,
the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

2012 Student Congressional Briefing Cover

From Chalkboards to Tablets: The Emergence of the K-12 Digital Learner is the second in a two part series to document the key national findings from Speak Up 2012.  In 2003, The Speak Up National Research Project was born to give K-12 students a voice in critical conversations, and to hopefully provide their parents, teachers and administrators with new insights about the expectations and aspirations of these newly minted digital learners. Now in its tenth year, the annual Speak Up National Research Project and the resulting trends analysis provides a birds’ eye view of the changing environment for digital learning, both in and out of school. 

As the digital learner has emerged over the past ten years, we have noticed a significant shift in the student perspective on using technology for learning.  To bring new insights and context to this digital learning metamorphosis, “From Chalkboards to Tablets: The Emergence of the K-12 Digital Learner” examines the current views of students from Kindergarten through 12th grade with a special look at digital learners in third, sixth, ninth and twelfth grades. Where appropriate we compare the ideas of this year’s digital learners with their predecessors over the past ten years.  Most importantly, in honor of the over 2.5 million K-12 students who have shared their hopes and dreams for digital learning through the Speak Up project over the past ten years, we address these critical questions with this new report:

  • What is the students’ vision for digital learning today and how has that vision evolved over the past ten years? 
  • How well are we meeting the current aspirations and expectations of our students, Kindergarten through 12th Grade, for using emerging technologies to personalize their learning process?  
  • What can we learn from the emergence of the digital learner that can impact the future of education?     

Key Findings from this year’s report include:

  • With smartphone usage dramatically on the rise — 65 percent of students in grades 6-8 and 80 percent of students in grades 9-12 are smartphone users – a main concern among today’s digital learners is how to leverage the unique features of different devices, from laptops to smartphones to tablets or digital readers, and use them for certain academic tasks.
  • While only 21% of teachers in middle and high schools are assigning Internet homework on a weekly basis, 69% of high school seniors, 61% of high school freshman and 47% of 6th graders are online at least weekly to find resources to support their homework
  • In just one year, the number of middle school students with a personally acquired, digital reader more than doubled from 17 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2012.
  • In fall 2011, 26 percent of students in grades 6-8 said that they had a personal tablet computer. In one year’s time, the percentage of middle school students with tablets jumped to 52 percent, a doubling over the 2011 percentage.
  • Despite this increase of mobile devices in the hands of students, schools are still reluctant to allow them. Among high school students with smartphones, only half say they can use their device at school and only nine percent of students say they can use their personal tablets at school. With 73 percentage of high school seniors saying they have a laptop, only 18 percent of the Class of 2013 say they are allowed to use their personal laptop at school.

Click here to download the PDF of the report.

Click here to view the report in HTML.

To download a copy of the first report on Educator and Parent data please click here.


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