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Project Tomorrow: A Report on Uses of Computer Technology in Education

I am interested in improving education for all people of all ages throughout the world. Recently, I had a delightful time interacting with a grandchild (age 10), three of my adult relatives, and two “senior citizens.” All of us spent a substantial amount of our time using Smartphones, tablet computers, and laptop computers.

Perhaps what was most interesting to me was the facility of the non-senior-citizens at making use of these tools whenever a question arose.

For example, the ten-year-old was telling one of us senior citizens about a recent Pixar movie. Within seconds the ten-year-old realized that words did not suffice, picked up a tablet computer, and quickly retrieved a preview of the movie. In addition, throughout the time we spent together, she made frequent use of a Smartphone for communication and played a variety of relatively demanding computer games for entertainment.

As a second example, part of the group had visited a wildlife sanctuary just the day before. They shared still and video pictures from their Smartphones. As still another example, another of our group who had just returned from an early morning fishing trip showed us Smartphone pictures of river scenery and the fish he had caught.

Wow! Certainly nothing like my childhood or when I was raising my own children. This brought home to me once again the almost incredible rapidity of the ways that the world is moving into the myriad uses of digital technology!

From Print to Pixel

In the fall of 2015, Project Tomorrow surveyed 415,686 K-12 students, 38,613 teachers and librarians, 4,536 administrators, 40,218 parents, and 6,623 community members representing more than 7,600 public and private schools and 2,600 districts. The Print to Pixel report is based on this survey (SpeakUp, 2016). Quoting from the report:

For the past thirteen years, Project Tomorrow’s® annual Speak Up Research Project has provided schools and districts nationwide and throughout the globe with new insights into how today’s students want to leverage digital tools for learning based upon the authentic, unfiltered ideas of students themselves. Each year, education, policy, research, and business leaders leverage the Speak Up findings to understand the trends around students’ use of technology, and how schools and communities can better serve the learning needs of today’s digital learners. Speak Up reports over the past few years have focused on connecting the digital dots for learning, mapping a personalized learning journey, and moving from chalkboards to tablets as part of a digital conversion effort.

I enjoy reading forecasts about the future. This report livens up its discussion with quotations from some of the students that were interviewed. Here are three of these quotations:

“I believe that in 2020 all of my classes will have online resources, and be almost completely digital. We will still attend school and interact but it will not be on paper, it will be on the computer. We will be able to find our own resources to learn from as well as what the teacher gives us.” Male student, 10th grade, Virginia.

“I think that schools will be completely paperless in 5 years. There will be a lot more online classes for younger generations. I think that a lot of learning children do will be through the medium of the Internet or interactive apps/games.” Female student, 12th grade, Wisconsin.

“Virtual reality simulations can help us with subjects like science, help us interact with chemicals or tools that can be dangerous in the real world. Even in History we could practically time travel and experience the Trojan War or experience what it was like to be a Pilgrim without any real danger.” Male student, 6th grade, Texas.

The report compares details of their recent findings with previous findings. I found the table quite interesting, and am impressed both by the large size of these studies as well as by the rapid changes in just three years. The 2012 study involved 53,947 teachers and the 2015 study involved 35,909 teachers. Here is a table of the data:

Use of videos found online: 2012 47%; 2015 68%.

Use of games: 2012 30%; 2015 48%.

Use of online curriculum: 2012 21%; 2015 36%.

Use of online textbooks: 2012 21%; 2015 30%.

Use of animations: 2012 20%; 2015 27%.

Use of virtual field tips: 2012 14%; 2015 17%.

Use of self-created videos: 2012 8%; 2015 12%.

Use of computer simulations: 2012 10%; 2015 10%.

The Heart of the Matter

The development of reading and writing—and subsequent thousands of years of development of aids to printing and distributing printed materials—certainly changed the world and especially the world of education. We have had photography for about 150 years, but only recently have we had electronic digital still and video photography and communication systems. This new technology has become a routine tool in the lives of a great many children and adults, and is now becoming a routine aid to teaching and learning. It isn’t that reading and writing are going away. Rather, a new dimension has been added to the everyday repertoire of learners and teachers. Students easily adjust to this change, and teachers are making progress in doing so.

What You Can Do

Examine your electronic digital knowledge and skills relative to the average ten-year-old. Are you keeping up with today’s children? If “no,” do something about it. If “yes,” use and expand your electronic digital knowledge and skills in your routine interactions with your students, other children, and adults.

References and Resources

Moursund D. (2016). Free educational videos. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/9/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016). Free math education videos. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/9/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016). Free open source and open content educational materials. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/9/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016). Learning problem-solving strategies by using games: A guide for educators and parents. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/9/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016). Skill knows no gender. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/9/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/9/2016 from

SpeakUp (2016). From print to pixel: The role of videos, games, animations and simulations within K-12 education. Retrieved 7/9/2016 from

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Friday, 24 September 2021

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