Winnetka Grade Schoolers Live in Wired World

A research project, presented at the District 36 board meeting, shows students in grades 3-8 use technology for multiple purposes every day. Nearly one in five students reported having their own computer.

Students in Winnetka Public Schools District 36 use iPads, iPods, electronic readers and video games so much that for many of them, computers -- desktops or laptops -- are an afterthought.

That was one of the findings in “Tap the Screen: Technology Integration in Our Students Lives,” a research project done by Matt Fuller, the district’s technology director, as part of his work towards a doctorate.

Fuller presented some of his findings at the April 24 school board meeting at the .


Fuller convened 55 students from grades 3-8 in all five of the district’s schools last December and January. After analyzing their discussions, he found mentions of 80 Apple operating system devices -- iPads, iPhones, iPods and the like -- available for the students to use in their homes. The students seemed to take for granted that every home would include at least one laptop or desktop computer even if they did not specifically mention it; nearly one in five reported having their own computer.

They also reported having access to a total of 100 dedicated gaming systems, whether consoles like Wii and Xbox 360 or handheld devices like the PSP or Nintendo DS, and access to another 147 devices that could be used for games, including the Apple products mentioned above and e-readers.

The game discussed most often was Angry Birds, followed closely by Call of Duty, a first-person shooter game that carries a rating indicating that it is intended for users age 17 and up -- something that applies to none of the District 36 students in the focus groups.

Fuller suggested that, with the widespread integration of technology into students’ non-school lives, the district should consider changing its policies about students using their own devices in school.

“Maybe that means some limited communication, or being able to use them when the teacher gives permission,” he said.

On the other hand, he noted, educators should be aware that students use e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, for a lot more than reading books. Those devices generally have been allowed in school.

“They really are multi-tasking on those,” he said.

District 36 Superintendent Thomas Hagerman said that he has noticed young children, even babies, using things like smart phones and iPads at family events like band concerts.

“We’re supposed to be ahead of the ball in education,” Hagerman said. “We’re going to have to work really hard to get ahead of this generation in technology.”

Board Vice President Jon Kaplan saw the lighter side of the students’ interest in Angry Birds.

“I’m very optimistic about our students’ sense of slingshot ballistics,” he said.

Fuller’s full report is available as a free e-book for the iPad at http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/tap-the-screen/id510879225?mt=11.

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Carrie Porter April 25, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Do you think that schools should consider changing policies about students using their own devices in school?
Matt Fuller April 25, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Many school districts, ours included, have already begun this discussion and some school districts (especially high school districts) have already changed their policies. This study lists several issues for districts to consider, including possible upgrades or updates to bandwidth and infrastructure, that may be needed to support a sudden influx of new devices that require wireless access and web filtering.
Carrie Porter April 26, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Wow - thanks for chiming in Matt! Anything else you would add on the subject that wasn't covered in the article?
Sully April 26, 2012 at 01:17 PM
This is probably a discussion for another time, but it truly is a shame that not all school districts and their residents can afford or have access to more technology. With cuts in funding, some schools are having to go with the bare minimum.


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