Spires, H., Lee, J., & Turner, K. (2008). Having our say: Middle grade student perspectives on school, technologies, and academic engagement. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(4), 497-515.
In Having Our Say: Middle Grade Student Perspectives on School, Technologies, and Academic Engagement, Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) researched what engages students to achieve in the middle school grades. They assert that “the manner in which new information and communication technologies are being used suggests that children are creating understandings and knowledge in new and different ways” (p.497). Has our educational system changed and developed to meet these new ways of learning? The goal of the study was to gain student insight into this matter.
The participants of this study included 4,000 middle school students who were part of a North Carolina statewide after-school program. The students took a survey and were also part of focus groups to gain additional information on student views about school, technology, and academic engagement. Quantitative result were gathered from the student surveys, while qualitative results were collected from the focus group sessions.
Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) organized the survey results into four areas. First, the highest frequency users of computers reported that they use computers more at home than at school. Second, the majority of students reported they learned word processing skills at school, but rated themselves as high users of digital music, video games, and cellphones – all technology related skills learned outside of school. Third, students ranked that using computers and doing research was the school activity they liked best, while listening to a teacher lecture and doing worksheets they liked least. Lastly, the majority of students said they used the Internet to find information rather than looking in a book.
Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) found that the following four technology-related themes emerged from the focus group data collected in this study:
I. “Do You Know Us?”: Students use a variety of technologies outside of schools for many different reasons. Technology is an important part of their lives and there was concern that teachers don’t understand this. The uses of technology inside school were more traditional (word processing, testing, etc.)
II. “Engage Us”: Students voiced that they enjoy conducting projects that use technology as a tool to gain new learnings.
III. “Prepare Us for Jobs of the Future”: Students understand the importance of technology skills in the professional world and want to be prepared for this.
IV. “Let’s Not Get Left Behind”: Students felt strongly about wanting improvements in technology in their schools and recognized the possibilities of where technology could take them in the future.
How do educators successfully merge the required content of our curriculums to the revolving world of technology in which our students live? Based on the finding of the above research, it is clear that students want more access to technology in school because it engages them in the learning process. So how do teachers and districts meet these demands? With students learning technology at a faster pace than most adults, it makes sense for students to have a voice in determining how different technology tools can impact their learning. This will not only engage them as students, but empower them as independent learners.