By David J. Rosen

Suppose you want to introduce or ramp up the use of technology for learning or communicating with your students. Where should you begin? There are many ways depending on what technology and web access you have available as a teacher and what kinds of technology and web access students have available at home, work, at their public library, community computing center, or elsewhere. How can you learn about your students’ computer and Internet skills, and about their cell phone access and skills? Survey them, orally or in writing. You could develop your own survey; or you could use or adapt one or both of the open source surveys below. Both the Internet survey and the cell phone survey are also available online in a more usable format.

Your objectives in surveying your students about Internet access could be to learn:

  • How they access the web – from computers at home, at your program or school, in a library and/or from portable digital devices, and what kinds and models of devices?
  • If they have email and, if so, how frequently they use it?
  • What basic digital literacy skills they have and need?

Your objective in surveying students about their portable digital devices (cell phones, smart phones, e-readers, laptop computers, electronic tablets) might be to learn:

  • What portable devices do they own that they could bring to class? 
  • Do the devices have text messaging as a feature? 
  • Do they use text messaging, e-mail, or instant messaging apps such Facebook Messenger, WeChat, WhatsApp, Snapchat, or Skype?

It’s likely that some of your students will be more tech savvy than others, and that some may have their own computer or portable digital device, while others do not. One reason for surveying students about their technology use and portable digital device access is to help you to group students for learning about technology. If your students are in a computer lab, or if you can provide computers or portable devices in your classroom, you may be able to organize small groups with technology mavens and neophytes in each one, and the experts could help the newbies. From the results of the Student Cell Phone Survey you will know which students have cell phones or other portable digital devices; you can ask them if they could bring their device to class, and if they would be willing to share it with one or two students who do not have one. You could then develop small group technology learning tasks whose objective would be to have every student perform it comfortably and competently.

Of course, some teachers will discover that there are not enough students who have cell phones — especially smart phones or tablets — to make small groups possible. Large group demonstrations, using a computer and multimedia projector, might be one way to introduce some technology skills, asking a student at the computer keyboard to demonstrate skills that you orally describe. But what if your class (or program) doesn’t have Internet access? As an adult education teacher you are eligible through the Everyone On program to get a mobile hotspot device for about $60 including shipping, and to purchase a $10/month plan that can provide Internet access in your classroom for you and several students who may have portable digital devices.

Student Internet and Computer Skills Survey

Your name _________________________________________

1. Do you ever use the Internet (the Web)?   Yes/No    If “No,” please do not continue.

Access to the Internet
2. How do you get to the Internet (the Web)? (Circle all the ways you actually use.)

  • Computer at home
  • Computer at your school or program
  • Computer at work
  • Computer at a library
  • Computer someplace else (Where?)
  • Cell phone (Please list your cell phone brand and model)
  • Electronic tablet
  • E-reader
  • Other (What?) 

3 a. Do you have an email address? Yes/No
3 b. If you have an email address, what is it?
3 c. If you have email, how often do you use it? (Circle one choice)
Many times each day/Many times each week/Never or Not often
3 d. Can you attach a document to your email? (Circle one choice)
Yes, easily/Yes but this is difficult/No
3 e. Can you attach a photo to your email? (Circle one choice)
Yes, easily/Yes but this is difficult/No

Computer Skills (For each of the computer skills below, circle only one choice.)
4 a. Can you create a document on your computer?  Yes/No/I don’t know
4 b. If yes, can you save a document? Yes/No/I don’t know
4 c. Can you find documents you have saved? Yes, easily/Sometimes/No
4 d. Do you know what a web browser is such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome? Yes/No
4 e. If yes, do you use a web browser? Yes/No
4 f. Do you know what a search engine is? Yes/No
4 g. If yes, can you use a search engine to find information on the Internet?
Yes, easily/Yes, sometimes/No
4 h. If yes, what kinds of information have you searched for? Circle all that apply to you.

  • Maps or directions
  • Weather
  • News
  • Movie times
  • Products to buy
  • Health or medical information
  • Job information
  • Recipes
  • Sports information
  • Other (please describe)

4 i. Have you watched videos on the web? Yes, a lot/Yes, sometimes/No
4 j. Have you used the Internet for learning? Yes, a lot/Yes, sometimes/No
4.k. If you have used the Internet for learning, please describe this.
4 l. Have you used Skype? Yes/No/I don’t know
4 m. Have you used a spreadsheet (such as Excel)? Yes/No/I don’t know

Developed by David J. Rosen on 1.27.15, Revised on 2.18.15

Student Cell Phone Survey
Directions: Circle “Yes”, “No”,  “I don’t know,” or write your answer to the question.Your name _________________________________________

  1. Do you have a cell phone? Yes/No  If “No” please do not continue.
  2. What is your cell phone brand  & model?
  3. Do you have an Internet Service Provider for your phone? If yes, which one? Yes/No/I don’t know
  4. What is your cell phone number, beginning with the area code?
  5. Does your cell phone have a camera? Yes/No/I don’t know
  6. If you answered yes, have you taken a picture using it? Yes/No/I don’t know
  7. If yes, have you sent the picture to an email address or web page? Yes/No/I don’t know
  8. Can you send and receive SMS text Messages on your cell phone? Yes/No/I don’t know
  9. If yes, have you sent an SMS text message? Yes/No/I don’t know
  10. If yes, have you received an SMS text message? Yes/No/I don’t know
  11. Does your cell phone have an MP3 (audio) player? Yes/No/I don’t know
  12. If yes, can you record audio? Yes/No/I don’t know
  13. Does your cell phone have a calculator? Yes/No/I don’t know
  14. Can your cell phone record video? Yes/No/I don’t know
  15. Does your cell phone have an address book (or contacts) feature? Yes/No/I don’t know
  16. Can you access the Internet (Web) from your cell phone? Yes/No/I don’t know
  17. If you can access the Web from your cell phone, have you: 
  • Sent an email? Yes/No
  • Found a map or directions? Yes/No
  • Other (Please describe.)

Based on a cell phone survey developed by Susan Gaer, ESL Professor, Santa Ana College, CA
and revised by David J. Rosen on 3.24.10, and updated 2.18.15

David J. Rosen is the President of Newsome Associates in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. He is the editor of the COABE journal Web Scan column, a long-time active contributor to the LINCS Technology and Learning community of practice, and the author of the Adult Literacy Education blog He can be reached at 

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