Survey Says…..

What is it about technology that seems to attract both the doom-n-gloom prophets as well as the hopeless optimists? I tend to think of myself as a realist. To the pessimists, I’m “too (bleep) cheerful” (fill in the ‘bleep’ with any colorful adjective – I’ve heard them all used there before), and to the optimists, I’m too much of a sourpuss.

I’ve run into many predictions about the future of educational technology, and a few of them don’t sit right with me. So I did some research to find out the truth. I can across a great web page with a wealth of online statistics all gathered in to one spot. Here are some popular EdTech predictions that I would like to take a moment to shatter:

  • All teens are on the Internet, so we should adjust our teaching accordingly. Actually, “29 percent of U.S. households have no internet service provider and no plans to get one.” Recent surveys have shown that 87% of all teens from the ages of 12-17 are online. That sounds high, but I personally don’t think we can seriously take that as a majority until it reaches 99%. Why do I say that? Because that 13% that is not online is probably concentrated in lower income areas. I used to teach at an inner city-like Junior High. I would estimate that maybe half (if that many) of my students were online. Also, that means for every 10 million teens out there, 1.3 million are not online. That’s a lot. I can’t find the statistics, but there are – what – 60 million teens in the US? We should be adjusting our teaching to include more active learning, but that should have happened hundreds of years ago.
  • Teens don’t use e-mail anymore. They only do text messages. I first heard this about 2 years ago, where the quote that stuck out to me was “e-mail is for old people.” That was a quote from a teenager in a survey. When I was a teenager, I was known to, um, exaggerate to increase the impact of my statements. Back in 2005, when I first heard this statement, a survey found that 89% of all teens online were there to check e-mail. It was the highest thing on the list – higher than videos games, music, instant messages, social networking, etc. I don’t think email is quite ready for the retirement home just yet.
  • Teens are much more likely to multi-task than adults. 80% of 8-18 year olds report multi-tasking when using some type of media. So, if they are so much better than adults, it should put the adults at – what? – 40, 50%, right? Nope. 70% of adults from the ages of 25 to 34 report multi-tasking when using some type of media. Slightly more likely? Sure. Much more likely? Hardly….

The web page listed above has a wealth of other statistics, many of which could be helpful for research projects, fact finding hunts, etc. The digital world is changing, and we need to stay on top of those changes. But, as Ed Tech professionals, we need to make sure we follow the hard data, and not the wishes of hopeless optimists or the apocalypses of the doom-n-gloom prophets.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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