Saturday, January 5, 2013

Finally! We Have Proof that Students Use Cell Phones for LEARNING

      A new study is providing a reliable body of research which supports our premise that students use cell phones to learn, and also that schools are not acknowledging or supporting them fully, yet.  We remain hopeful and ask all of you innovative educators and true teachers of generation text to help us share this evidence in hopes of encouraging more schools to stop banning and start embracing student use of mobile devices at school.
      As we have been saying for a few years now, let the students lead.  We need to support students when they choose to use the devices they know, love, and prefer for learning.  Isn't it amazing that as we interact with a growing body of educators who embrace mobile devices for learning, education as a whole is still lagging behind.  Students whether allowed to use their devices in school or not, are moving forward and using them for homework.  You go kids!  
     We, the authors of Teaching Generation Text, are thrilled with the new, reliable research conducted by TRU (see below for methodology and TRU facts).  It was a great day when Layla Rafael sent us this exciting email, 

"Kids FINALLY have a case for why they really need mobile devices - smartphones, tablets, laptops - says the findings of a new, groundbreaking study conducted with middle school students by the Verizon Foundation. The survey is the first of its kind examining how this young age group is using mobile devices to do schoolwork, and reveals that these tools are actually helping kids learn math and science better, and increasing their confidence and motivation, despite the fact that most schools (88%) strictly forbid their use for learning.

Many parents and teachers see these devices as distracting to kids, but this national study proves that even this young age group, deserves more credit for how they're using them as 1 in 3 are using mobile device to complete homework and they're helping them learn better." 

Wow, just what Teaching Generation Text needed was the backup by reliable research for what WE ALL KNOW is already happening.  Here is the link to the full report and a quick list of the most exciting findings:
  • "An unexpected number of middle school students (from all ethnicities and incomes) say they are using mobile devices including smartphones and tablets to do their homework. Previous TRU research indicated that middle school students are using smartphones and tablets for communication and entertainment. However, this is the first TRU research that shows that middle school students are also using these mobile devices to complete homework assignments.
    • >  More than one out of three middle school students report they are using smartphones (39%) and tablets (31%) to do homework.
    • >  More than 1in 4 students ( 26 %) are using smartphones for their homework, weekly or more.
    • >  Interestingly, Hispanic and African American middle school students are using the smartphones for homework more than Caucasian students. Nearly one half of all Hispanic middle school students (49%) report using smartphones for homework. Smartphone use for homework also crosses income levels with nearly one in three (29%) of students from the lowest income households reporting smartphone usage to do their homework assignments.  (a quota was set to ensure a minimum of 200 respondents with a household income of $25,000 or less.)

  •  Despite the high numbers of middle school students using lap tops, smartphones and tablets for homework, very few are using these mobile devices in the classroom, particularly tablets and smartphones. A large gap exists between mobile technology use at home and in school.

    >   Where 39% of middle school students use smartphones for homework, only 6% report that they can use the smartphone in classroom for school work. There is also a gap in tablet use. Although 31% of middle school students say they use a tablet for homework, only 18% report using it in the classroom. 
  • 66% of students are not allowed to use a tablet for learning purposes in the classroom, and 88% are not allowed to use a phone.
  • Students also say using mobile devices like tablets makes them want to learn more."
As is already obvious I want to quote the study under the section "Significant Opportunity"

  • A significant opportunity appears to exist for middle schools to more deeply engage students by increasing their use of mobile devices in the classroom.

                          > Access to mobile devices at home is high among this group, and students are already turning to these 
                         devices to complete homework assignments. Therefore, it is only natural and highly beneficial for                 
                         students to extend this mobile device usage into the classroom. "

                           > Teacher education and training on the effective integration of mobile technologies into instruction may 
                            provide significant benefits for all. Mobile device usage in class appears to have the potential to 
                            sustain, if not increase interest in STEM subjects as students progress into high school."

There could not be a more powerful plug for Teaching Generation Text, so help us spread the word.  We would love to train the staff at your school on the wealth of ways to safely, ethically, and effectively utilize the power of mobile technology with your students for homework and IN the classroom.  As Rose Stuckey Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation states, “Our research supports the fact that mobile technology can inspire and engage students today... We need to meet children where they are and leverage their use of mobile devices"

Want ideas for using cell phones for learning? Check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning or contact the authors for on sight trainings, webinars, and our online class!

Survey Methodology
Verizon Foundation commissioned TRU to conduct quantitative research on middle school students’ use of technology.  TRU conducted 1,000 online interviews among sixth- to eighth-grade students, ages 11-14, yielding a margin of error of + 3.0 percentage points. The interviews were conducted from Oct. 4 through Oct. 12, 2012. The sample of 1,000 students was broken out as follows: 332 sixth graders (166 males and 166 females); 332 seventh graders (166 males and 166 females); and 336 eighth graders (167 males and 169 females).  A quota was also set to ensure a minimum of 200 respondents with a household income of $25,000 or less.  The final total for this quota is n=273.  Unless otherwise noted, all reported data is based on a statistically reliable base size of n=100 or greater.
About TRU
TRU is the global leader in youth research and insights, focusing on tweens, teens and twenty-somethings. For more than 25 years, TRU has provided the insights that have helped many of the world's most successful companies and organizations develop meaningful connections with young people. As an advocate for young people, TRU has provided critical direction for many of the nation’s most prominent and successful social-marketing campaigns, helping to keep young people safe and healthy. TRU’s work has made a difference – from being put to use at the grass-roots level to being presented at the very highest levels of government.
About the Verizon Foundation
The Verizon Foundation is focused on accelerating social change by using the company’s innovative technology to help solve pressing problems in education, health care and energy management. Since 2000, the Verizon Foundation has invested more than half a billion dollars to improve the communities where Verizon employees work and live. Verizon’s employees are generous with their donations and their time, having logged more than 6.2 million hours of service to make a positive difference in their communities. For more information about Verizon’s philanthropic work, visit;or for regular updates, visit the Foundation on Facebook ( and Twitter (



  1. Willyn and Lisa, my step-daughter texts and uses Facebook for homework help and information all the time. The other day she was using Skype to discuss vocabulary with one of her classmates for an upcoming test. Yes, she does text and use Facebook/Skype for fun but during the week she has so much homework she doesn't have time to use her cell phone for fun or just friendly chats/conversations.

    1. Thanks for sharing Kim. I find this with my daughters as well. I"m glad there is some research starting to come out regarding what we see on a daily basis.