A new study from the Pew Internet and & American Life Project was released last week and although there were no big surprises revealed, a clear picture of the way that teens communicate and spend their leisure time emerged.
Here's are some findings I found significant:
87% of U.S. teens aged 12-17 use the internet, and 51% of teenage internet users say they go online on a daily basis. And for high school aged teens the percentages are even higher: in 7 th grade, it jumps to 82% who are online. From there, the
percent of users in the teen population for each grade climbs steadily before topping out at 94% for eleventh and twelfth graders.
One out of every two teens who use the internet lives in a home with a broadband connection. This statistic surprised me and lends more credence to the explosion of online content referred to in the Inquirer article I commented on in a previous post. This is an area that seems to hold a lot of promise for educational uses. By being able to share games, audio and video files and webcast, content and discussions can move out of the classroom. But more importantly we're now entering a time when many students have the skills and tools to produce these products as means to demonstrate their learning and teach others. In fact many are noticing and prediciting an explosion in amateur creativity (as described in this BBC article) that schools and students could, and should be a part of. Another by-product might be new meaningful interactive homework and enhancement activities. A frequent complaint I hear from students is the about the amount and ineffectiveness of homework. In fact, a study summarized here looked into this very matter. They used an interactive homework program to engage students and parents and found it a more effective learning tool and one that students would more readily complete. They also found that parents can play more of a role in high school students' schoolwork through programs like these. "High schools have the capacity to change the way that families support teens' school success. When high schools reach out to involve families, families are more likely to be involved in ways that support teens' success through the last year of high school."
"Instant messaging has become the digital communication backbone of teens' daily lives. About half of instant-messaging teens or roughly 32% of all teens use IM every single day."
"IM is a multi-channel space of personal expression for teens. They typically converse in text, but they also share links, photos, music, and video over IM."
IM is another overlooked technology that has educational uses. Teens are obviously very comfortable with it, and although you wouldn't want it to be used where more formal reflective writing is required, for quick informal discussion and interaction among teachers and classmates it is ideal.
When compared to adults, teens are more than twice as likely to play games online; 81% of online teens say they are gamers, compared to 32% of online adults.
This seems to be a growing area for educational software developers and something that was covered in my interview with Marc Prensky.
I believe that if we want to engage students in new ways we must utilize the formats of communication, entertainment, and information that they are familiar with. An earlier Pew study focused on what they termed the Digdisconnectonect: "Many schools and teachers have not yet recognized, much less responded to, the new ways students communicate and access information over the Internet. Students report that there is a substantial disconnect between how they use the Internet for school and how they use the Internet during the school day and under teacher direction."
These studies taken together offer a portrait of our students and the means of content delivery and areas of interest that compete for their time. Students are regularly reporting that high school doesn't engage them. So rather than try to beat them; let's find ways to join them.