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QTL for IT Educators > News > Article Summaries > Current Article
Studies shed light on students, technology
March 2004

RALEIGH , NC -- A survey of teens confirms they are increasingly tech-savvy. A study of high schools finds most have students providing technical support. And a coalition of organizations starts working on guidelines for school technology directors setting up student tech support teams. Those are just a handful of examples of how students' understanding and use of technology is increasingly in the spotlight across the country.

A 2003 National School Boards Foundation study shows more than 60% of high schools have students performing maintenance and troubleshooting on computers. However, the study notes that in most cases, schools lack a formal process for training those students or managing their tech support efforts.

That study is one of the factors behind a new effort by a coalition of groups that deal with student technology issues. The Youth Technology Support Collaborative includes non-profits like ExplorNet, NetDay and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) that deal with schools, as well as IT companies including Apple, Microsoft and Dell. The group is working on a handbook of resources and Best Practices for schools that have students performing tech support.

The Centers for Quality Teaching & Learning™ CEO David Boliek says the new research highlights the need for programs focused on the effective teaching of technology. "It's more important now than ever before," he says. "The teacher plays a critical role, and quality professional development is essential."

Students in QTL/ExplorNet-affiliated schools have long provided tech support for their school districts, as hands-on experiences provided by that opportunity are a foundation of the ExplorNet approach to IT education. This year, QTL/ExplorNet is adding its own handbook on student tech support to the materials and resources it provides teachers of its Computer Engineering and Networking courses.

Meanwhile, the national NetDay organization has uncovered some astounding facts concerning students' comfort with technology after surveying more than 200,000 young people from coast to coast. NetDay's "SpeakUp Day" project found, "Today's students are very technology savvy, feel strongly about the positive value of technology and rely upon technology as an essential and preferred component of every aspect of their lives." The major findings from the report are:

•  "Today's students are very tech savvy and comfortable using technology as an essential component of every aspect of their lives.

•  They are not just using technology in different ways, they are approaching their life and their daily activities differently because of technology.

•  The way that students are using technology gets more sophisticated as they get older. but do not underestimate the younger children's capacity for using technology meaningfully.

•  A new digital disconnect is emerging between students who are very tech savvy and ones who still view themselves as beginners.

•  Technology is allowing today's students to be ultra-communicators."

The survey found that 29% of K-3 students, 45% of grade 4-6 students, and 79% of grade 7-12 students have email accounts. In fact, 12% of those in middle and high school grades have at least FOUR email accounts! 70% in that age group use Instant Messaging to talk to their friends on the Internet, and more than half say they know more of their friends' screen names than home phone numbers.

Tellingly, 71% of those in grades 4-12 say they enjoy using technology and learning new ways to use it, and 95% consider it important or very important to their education. But most say they learned the majority of what they know about technology at home, rather than at school. Problems include lack of time to use technology in class, slow access time to get on the Internet, and school filters and firewalls.

More information about the SpeakUp project is at www.netda.org.

For more information, contact Robin Fred via e-mail at or call him at 888.507.3800.

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