K-12 students want to use mobile devices more in the classroom but Wifi access remains a challenge

Three high school male students looking at cell phones

Mobile device learning and its adoption in the classroom continues to grow, according to this year’s findings from a survey by Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Pearson. Smartphone ownership among students in grades 4-12 has risen since last year, and increases with grade level: eight in ten students now own a smartphone. As students grow older, they are more likely to become smartphone owners. Younger students, however, are more likely to use a tablet in class for learning. Even with a high level of personal smartphone ownership, high school students are nearly eight times as likely to prefer laptops, notebooks, and Chromebooks for learning (38 percent to 5 percent).

Nine in Ten Students Believe that Tablets are Game-changers for Learning, and that they Make Learning More Fun

According to the survey, most students want to use mobile devices in the classroom more often than they do now. This is especially true for younger students. Seven in ten elementary school students, two-thirds of middle school students, and over half of high school students would like to use mobile devices more often in the classroom. These numbers are nearly identical to the percentages recorded for this metric in 2014.

Tablet usage remains high and growing – especially for younger students. In 2015, 78 percent of elementary school students report that they regularly use a tablet, up from 66 percent a year ago. At the elementary school level, tablets have replaced laptops as the mobile device that students use most often (78 percent for tablets vs. 66 percent for laptops). Two in three middle school students (69 percent) report using tablets, up from the 58 percent of middle school students who reported using tablets just last year. Nearly half of high school students (49 percent) report using tablets, up from the 42 percent that reported using tablets last year. Older adult students, ages 25+, also enjoy learning on a tablet.

Trends in mobile device usage

The survey interviewed 2,274 students in grades 4-12, and 1,211 college students, about the types of mobile devices they own, how they use them for school work and how they expect to use them in the future. The survey results are weighted to represent the U.S. population of students in grades 4-12 and college. The survey also explored students’ attitudes towards mobile devices for learning, with a special focus on tablets, asking what devices they felt they learned best with; and which devices they prefer for reading, studying, taking notes and doing other school-related activities.

Most students continue to feel that tablets are game changers when it comes to learning. According to the survey:

  • 90 percent of students agree that tablets will change the way students learn in the future
  • Eight in ten students agree that using tablets in the classroom lets them learn in a way that’s best for them
  • Eight in ten students agree that tablets help students do better in class.

As with other findings, these percentages are nearly identical to the percentages recorded for these items last year.

Wireless Access Still a Challenge for Schools

Though students believe that tablets are and will be game changers in terms of learning and student engagement, access to wireless Internet is still a challenge for some schools around the country. For example, 96 percent of students have wireless access at home versus 68 percent who have wireless access at school. Last year, 93 percent of students reported having wireless access at home versus 62 percent who have wireless access at school. Wi-fi access at home is up this year by three points and at school by six points. Though access is slowly rising, schools can do a better job at offering this critical tool to students to fully utilize increases in mobile device adoption and to ensure that mobile device learning is most effective.

Read the full report.

Dr. Liane Wardlow and Dr. Seth Reichlin from Pearson’s Research & Innovation Network talk about the report on Blog Talk Radio. Listen to the podcast as they discuss the report and many of the great findings.