Tomorrow’s students – Are We Ready for the New 21st Century Learners?

Educause 2007 – Thursday 25 October

Presenter – Julie Evans -Chief Executive Officer, Project Tomorrow – NetDay

An interesting presentation, if taken at a breakneck speed. It was the presentation of the annual national research project for K-12 schools in the US for 2006- the 2007 survey has just begun. The 2006 survey covered 232,000 students, 21,000 teachers and 15,000 parents, covering all states.

The survey tries to identify what the student of tomorrow will be like and what they will expect. Some highlights of the survey include the fact that communication is the number one issue, that we will need to redefine ‘friend’, that issues of safety and privacy will need reviewing and that there is a growing disconnect between adults and students

In 1994 3% K-12 classes had an internet connection but in 2002 it stood at 93%. So new freshmen haven’t had online access for very long and those students now with 93% connectivity won’t get into college until 2014. So plans are needed now for 5 years hence – the digital natives are not yet in university. In the US early kindergarten kids are now comfortable with mobile phones and all ages are comfortable with gaming

More and more students are now emailing teachers, using on line books, checking grades and IM classmates about projects. Students want to take online classes as supplement to regular class not just as replacements and the most popular area for online is Maths. Contrary to fears students feel that online learning is social and that they have good online relationships with teachers and fellow students.

For students the big 4 technologies are email/IM, games, music and Myspace. They use email as a file transfer device where they send themselves files and they see email as a grandparent tool and not for them and their friends. There is no difference between boys and girls in the amount or type of gaming and music has never had a gender split. There has been a large increase in amount of students maintaining a Myspace site.

Social networkers are more likely to be the new and low technology users and not the high end techies. 44% of students have monthly contact with friends outside of school, and 34% don’t plan to meet them – so a redefinition of term ‘friend’ is needed. Some students are now saying that some of these unmet friends know them better than school friends.

Students value technology skills for job finding, college success, and world awareness. From 3rd grade to grade 12 about 35% students are not interested in science, technology, engineering or maths careers but at K-2 only 12% were not interested – so what happens at 3rd grade? May be that teachers move from the real applications and into the text book pursuit of the subjects and students stop seeing the reality of the subjects

Younger students see obstacles to using technology as lack of PC’s and slowness whereas for older students it is about rules against the use technology, controls over when and where to use technology, and schools filters. The most critical technology component for a ‘new’ school from a students perspective is being given a laptop – this would give them access to content, gives control, and can be used at home or at school

When considering 21st century skills parents rate critical thinking, problem solving, and the work ethic whilst teachers see critical thinking and problem solving as key. Students see a direct link between technology skills and critical thinking.

Trends to watch include the spectrum of digital natives, new users for communications devices, connecting without boundaries/new friends, technology as a tool not just a fad or for fun, and the inclusion of students ideas into planning and investments new reports here Julie Evans

1 thought on “Tomorrow’s students – Are We Ready for the New 21st Century Learners?

  1. Shubhranshuji

    Indeed a very informative write-up. I think that application of teaching practices, developed after analyzing student’s personal capabilities and interests may make teaching more effective. Online learning or study through a reliable tutoring company like is the trusted solution of vivid problems that are faced by more than 80% students of all grades.

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