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The vision of Project Tomorrow is to ensure that today’s students are well prepared to be tomorrow’s innovators, leaders and engaged citizens of the world.  We believe that by supporting the innovative uses of science, math and technology resources in our K-12 schools and communities, students will develop the critical thinking, problem solving and creativity skills needed to compete and thrive in the 21st century.


For Immediate Release:
September 8, 2017
Download PDF of Press Release

Amber Taylor

A Glimpse into Learning Life of a Middle School Student

New Speak Up Data Released from 500,000 Surveys on Student Use of Technology for Learning in and out of School

Washington, DC – Chromebooks, challenging Internet speeds, Google Apps, online language classes, educational gaming and using technology for learning more outside of school – these are all part of the life of a middle school student today, according to new data from Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up Research Initiative released today during a Congressional briefing. New data on flipped, blended and virtual learning, and on students’ access to the Internet and to mobile devices in and out of school were also released via new Speak Up infographics.

The Speak Up 2016 data comes from more than 500,000 surveys taken by K-12 students, educators and parents across the country from October 2016 through January 2017. More than 138,000 of those surveys came from students in grades 6 to 8.

“Speak Up research points to the growing value of personalized learning, especially among students. The middle school students we profiled this year told us that technology allows them to learn at their own pace in ways that fit their individual styles, and that they are taking greater ownership of their own learning,” said Dr. Julie Evans, Chief Executive Officer of Project Tomorrow and lead Speak Up researcher.

In school, today’s middle school students are:

  • more likely to use a Chromebook (44%) than their own personal device (25%)
  • using mobile devices to do self-directed Internet research (81%), email teachers with questions (41%) and collaborate with peers (40%)
  • taking online classes; top subject to take online: world languages (57%)
  • playing educational games: 34% of girls and 39% of boys say they are playing weekly

Outside of school, they:

  • have personal access to a smartphone (77%)
  • use the Internet as an all-purpose study guide - 35% go online daily for learning, 69% access the Internet for learning weekly
  • use the Internet regularly to self-direct learning - 77% go to websites to learn more about topics that interest them
  • use technology more than in school for learning (58%)

Read the blog post, A Day in the Life of Today’s Students, for additional student data.

“As students adopt technology and revise learning expectations, we are seeing a greater acceptance of new learning models by adults as well, and increasing digital expectations among parents,” said Evans. “Students see learning as a 24/7 enterprise, not just something they do in classrooms. Parents and educators are trying to keep up.”

Classroom Models, Personalized Learning and Technology
The Flipped, Blended, Virtual: New Classroom Models, Technology & Personalized Learning infographic released at the briefing concludes that teachers in flipped, blended and virtual classrooms see greater value in digital learning for personalized learning and use technology differently with their students than teachers in traditional classrooms. Findings include:

  • More than half of teachers in these new classroom models (53%) agree the use of technology results in students taking greater ownership of their own learning; just 34% of teachers in traditional classrooms agreed.
  • More teachers in new classroom models say that as a result of integrating technology within their practice, they are now providing students with more individualized attention, creating more student-centered learning experiences, helping my students become self-directed learners. Just one-third of teachers in traditional classrooms said the same.
  • In 2016, most teachers reported they are still in traditional classroom settings (73%).

“The opportunities technology presents to transform learning have yet to be fully explored and implemented in classrooms across the country,” said Evans “Speak Up data continues to show evidence of external indicators of change, but also indicate the lack of real systematic changes in activities, attitudes or aspirations of teachers. Those teaching in new classroom models – flipped, blended and virtual – are pointing the way for how technology can actually change teaching and learning.”

Homework Gap
The How America's Schools are Addressing the Homework Gap: Speak Up 2016 Findings infographic reports that 17% of students say they do not have internet access outside of school. These are some of the strategies those students use to get access to complete their homework:

  • 48% go to school early or stay late (up from 35% in 2015)
  • 32% do homework in fast food restaurants or cafes (up from 19% in 2015)
  • 30% go to the public library (up from 24% in 2015)

“Speak Up offers the nation, as well as individual schools and districts, the chance to evaluate student access to the Internet for learning, as well as student access to mobile devices,” said Evans. “We continue to see growth in access and adoption, but the number of students and schools still struggling with digital equity should concern everyone.”

Mobile Learning
The Mobile Learning Snapshot 2017 reports on the types of devices students in Kindergarten through high school have access to for personal use and for learning in school along with how students in grades 6 through 12 are using the devices for learning. The infographic also shares findings from parents, teachers and principals. Some highlights:

  • Roughly the same number of high school students now access their own mobile device for learning in class (58% BYOD) as have a school Chromebook (56%).
  • Among middle school students: 77% have personal access to a smartphone, 50% to a tablet, 60% to a Chromebook and 11% to a laptop.
  • 19% of students in grades 6 through 12 use a school-provided device to access the internet outside of school.
  • 71% of parents say it is important for every student to use mobile devices in school.
  • 22% of teachers say their students do not have regular access to devices in school.

Each year, the Speak Up project asks K-12 students, parents and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. Since 2003, more than 5 million K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians, principals, technology leaders, district administrators, communications officers and members of the community have shared their views and ideas through Speak Up.  

In fall 2016, Project Tomorrow surveyed 435,510 K-12 students, 38,512 teachers and librarians, 4,592 administrators, 29,670 parents and 5,846 community members representing more than 7,000 public and private schools and 2,400 districts.  Schools from urban (26%), suburban (38%), and rural (36%) communities are represented. Just over one-half of the schools (57%) that participated in Speak Up 2016 are Title I eligible schools (an indicator of student population poverty).

About Project Tomorrow & Speak Up
Project Tomorrow is the nation’s leading education nonprofit group dedicated to ensuring that today’s K-12 students are well prepared to become tomorrow’s leaders, innovators and engaged citizens of the world. The Speak Up Project for Digital Learning is a national initiative of Project Tomorrow. Since 2003, the annual Speak Up project has collected and reported on the views of more than 5 million K-12 students, teachers, administrators and parents representing more than 30,000 schools in all 50 states. This represents the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, schools of the future, science and math instruction, professional development and career exploration.

Speak Up is supported by many of our nation’s most innovative companies, foundations and nonprofit organizations including Apex Learning, Blackboard, BrainPOP, DreamBox Learning, Qualcomm® WirelessReach™, Rosetta Stone Education and Scholastic.