Introducing a new Speak Up Survey tool to help K-12 education leaders with decision-making about continued learning during a school closure!

March 18, 2020

Parents’ Views on E-Learning During School Closure

Project Tomorrow is pleased to announce the availability of a new Speak Up survey tool to help K-12 schools and districts collect feedback from parents about the viability of online or e-learning during school closure, and parents’ concerns about that approach for their child.  This new survey tool is available immediately for your usage and is open to all K-12 schools and districts. As with all Speak Up surveys, there is no fee to use this survey within your community and all collected data is provided back to you with state and national comparative data for context.

This new survey is short – only 15 questions long and your parents should be able to complete it in 10 minutes.  It is accessible with any Internet connection including from a smartphone. Parents’ will identify their child’s school and all data will be aggregated at the school and district levels for you.

The survey questions have been professionally developed using Project Tomorrow’s 17-year history of knowing how to ask parents questions to get the most valid data.  The resulting data from the survey questions will help you understand the following from your students’ parents:

  • General perception of the idea of e-learning or online learning at home during a school closure
  • Child’s access to a computer and mobile devices at home – what types of technology and is it shared or dedicated to the child for learning
  • Child’s access to the Internet – including level of connectivity
  • Parents’ belief about the success of their child to learn in this way
  • Level of parental concerns about various potential anxieties with e-learning
  • Comfort with monitoring students’ behaviors online
  • Personal experience with online or e-learning
  • Best way for teachers to communicate with parents during a school closure

As you think about either implementing online or e-learning in the short term during an immediate closure or the longer term as this crisis develops, it is critical that you have the very best information about the views, beliefs, and capacities of your families to support this type of learning environment.  We are here to help you and make sure that you have data for decision-making that is valid, credible and trustworthy. In addition to providing you with the local data and state/national data for context, we are also offering our Speak Up districts a data analysis call with Dr. Julie A. Evans, our CEO, to interpret the data findings with your team and make recommendations to you about how to prepare for and message e-learning to your community.

Our team has created sample email messages and texts to distribute to your parent community.  You can find all of these resources and the link to the survey here:

If you have any questions or need additional support, please contact us at  Thank you for your leadership in this difficult time and keep up the good work.

Featured Blog Winner of 2018-19 Student Speak Up Challenge

By Anakin Guzzata
April 11, 2019
Eagle Valley Middle School
Carson City, NV

AnakinHelp us predict the future of learning! What will “school” be like in 2025? How will new technologies change the way students go to school, learn, and interact with their teachers and classmates?

The world in 2025 will be very different. There could be flying cars which can take you to one destination to another in a matter of minutes which could originally take hours, or there could be new tablets which can fold in certain ways where it is easy to grab and go. But besides things for transportation or personal use, how could schools be advanced with tech?

Technology is quickly advancing and it’s going to affect everyone who does or doesn’t use tech. But how will they affect schools? Well, like previously said, newer tablets could change the education system. There might be new programs for school on tablets. These tablets could have a very high amount of storage to download textbooks, assignments, podcasts, etc. This may even help the teachers. As of 2019 we have Google Classroom which works great for getting work done. But maybe around the time of 2025 the whole idea of Google Classroom could be replaced with something better. Also, if there were new tablets put into the education system, then they could theoretically retract or fold so it would be easier to put away and make sure it doesn’t get lost.

Another way technology could affect school is with VR (Virtual Reality). With advancements in VR the students could go onto field trips without even having to leave their desks. All they need to do is put on the goggles and in a matter of minutes and they could be exploring the depths of space or go as small as a cell. The students might learn better with the VR because to them it may feel like they are actually immersed into the subject. With the VR the students could also make more 3D projects and be “hands on” when they are modeling. But the Virtual Reality isn’t only just useful for 3D modeling and printing. It can be useful for numerous things like typing a Google Document and fixing the layouts on it, or even analyze text and annotate on the text. With VR being implemented into schools, it can open so many opportunities for students both starting off with school, or even students who are almost done with school.

And last but certainly not least another way technology will affect schools is with virtual assistants. A virtual assistant is what some people may have in their house, like an Amazon Alexa or a Google Assistant. If there were virtual assistants in all classes, that could help the students and the teachers. First off, students can use them by asking basic math questions for a math class, or to define a word that they don’t know for English. They could also use Virtual Assistants with screens for YouTube tutorials or other things that may involve a screen. The teachers also could use the assistants to read an audiobook to the class or for the class to listen to a podcast. These assistants can have so much potential around the classroom.

There is so much happening with the world technology wise. Advancements are being made every single day for transportation, personal use, household appliances, health and even schools. The things that were touched on are just the very beginning of what can be implemented into schools. Some schools give computers to every student to take home and use for homework or assignments. Some schools also have computer labs to learn about computer programming and coding so students can have an understanding in that field of area. But with these advancements, many things from years beyond will change.

When Public and Private Sectors Engage – Special Things Can Happen

BOSTON Mass., January 16, 2019 iboss, a leader in cloud security, hosted the executive board of the National Advisory Council on Cybersecurity (NACC) at their Boston Headquarters. The focus of the day’s events included an executive roundtable, consisting of the iboss senior executive team and the NACC board discussing the growing concerns associated with the potential negative impact the lack of adequate cybersecurity technology and practice is having across the nation’s public education system.

iboss hosting an executive roundtable with NACC Board members

Project Tomorrow CEO, Dr. Julie Evans presents national findings associated with the increasing need to cyber secure student devices going home

Ron Chandler, former CIO at Los Angeles Unified School District and now CIO at Harvard Business School and co-chair of the NACC, agrees that interactions between public education and the public sector can make all the difference. Chandler stated “I have personally participated in these kinds of engagements, and have always walked away feeling that public education must foster closer relationships – particularly in the Information Technology sector, especially as public education seeks to embrace education technology resources to increase academic relevance/achievement.” Chandler’s colleague and NACC co-chair Debbie Karcher, former CIO at Miami Dade said, “We are very grateful to iboss for giving the board an opportunity to brief iboss senior executives on the challenges the education sector faces relevant to protecting our nation’s students. The board has learned a great deal throughout this day around how iboss is leveraging its delivery of cybersecurity by delivering their platform as a SaaS in the cloud solution – frankly just what I believe districts across the country need to embrace today.” Continue reading

Safeguarding Student Data, State of K-12 IT Report

As schools introduce new technology and shift more content to the cloud, data privacy continues to be a top concern of administrators and school technology leaders. Last fall, 58 percent of technology leaders said their top concern with cloud applications is ensuring data privacy. And, 71 percent of district administrators are concerned about the security of their network against malicious attacks or misbehavior.

So, what are they doing to protect their networks? According to Speak Up, most schools (70%) have hardware and software in place for protection. There is more understanding of the legal implications and much more education of teachers about policies and procedures. There has even been growth among schools to assign a staff person to oversee data privacy and security, with 45 percent of schools reporting this change.

When it comes to professional development though, while 61 percent of district administrators say teacher PD on student data privacy is a priority, only 8 percent of teachers said they need that type of training and one-third of technology leaders remain concerned about teachers’ understanding about student data privacy.

Speak Up 2018-19 is currently open. Schools and districts wishing to use the free tools can get started here:

Speak Up About School Safety

For the first time in our 15-year history, Speak Up includes a detailed set of questions on this year’s parent and administrator surveys about the physical safety and mental health supports in schools today. We have asked about online safety and data privacy for years, but given the focus of school leaders on what additional safety measures they should take to protect students and teachers, we have expanded that set of questions.

This year, Speak Up includes questions about:

  • levels of concerns relative to physical safety and protections, mental health supports and online safety for students at school
  • the safety and security protections and practices in place to create a safe learning environment for all children
  • levels of support for many of the physical protections or practices that are being discussed, including auto door locks triggered by a campus emergency, lock down drills, emergency notification system, metal detectors, fencing, rules about backpacks, school resource officers, school staff have weapons on campus, staff and student ID badges and more
  • levels of support for many of the mental and online safety precautions being discussed, including monitoring of students’ online activities and social media accounts, Internet filters and firewalls, student safe school ambassadors, tip lines to report concerns, training for teachers how to identify students with mental or emotional concerns and more

To create these new survey questions, we reviewed many planning documents created by school districts and communities around the country over the past year including the initial report and recommendations released by the Broward County League of Cities’ School and Community Public Safety Task Force in June 2018. In addition, we spoke with scores of district leaders and our Speak Up Advisory Council members about what types of stakeholder feedback would be most helpful for school and district leaders to have to address these critical safety issues.

Our hope is that school districts will use this feedback from their staff and parents to help guide their ongoing efforts to protect their students from threats on campus. We also hope the national-level data will inform the public debate on these issues going forward.

School leaders can get started with Speak Up now. The free tool is available to use through January 31, 2019, with data delivered in February.

Teacher Professional Learning Feedback Tool

NEW this year!

School and district leaders tell Project Tomorrow that the professional learning insights they gain from their teachers is among the top five benefits they receive by participating in the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning. This year, we’ve created a Teacher Professional Learning Snapshot tool for those schools or districts who want to dig a little deeper into this topic with their teachers. As with all Speak Up tools, this Snapshot is also a free service.

From the Speak Up data and focus group feedback, we know that the #1 issue facing school principals today – relative to the use of technology within learning – is how to motivate and train their teachers to change their instructional practices to more seamlessly integrate technology into instruction.

And, teachers tell us they need and want more professional learning experiences to be able to use technology more effectively. In fact, via Speak Up, more than half identified more of this type of professional development as their #1 need last year.

While teachers are using more digital content than ever before and have greater access to digital tools including mobile devices in their classroom than ever before, there still is a gap between usage and effectiveness. Driving that gap is teachers’ lack of confidence or comfort with using many digital tools. For example, only 23 percent of teachers say they are very comfortable integrating mobile devices into instruction with their students. Yet, 82 percent of teachers say their students have regular access to mobile devices to use for learning in their classroom. (See more insights into professional learning from Speak Up 2017.)

This new Snapshot tool allows administrators to learn more from their teachers about their preferences and interests in professional learning experiences to support more effective use of technology. See the questions on this snapshot. Continue reading

Mobile Learning Impact Evaluation Tool for Schools

A brand new way to understand the impact of mobile learning in your district: democratizing evaluation for everyone

School district leaders have a new way to evaluate their mobile learning initiatives: the Speak Up Mobile Learning Impact Snapshot. Developed by the team at Project Tomorrow, building on more than a decade of evaluation studies and insights from the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning, this new Snapshot is a research-based tool designed to help school leaders get beyond just “student engagement” as a level of success (or failure) of their mobile learning initiatives.

Increasingly, administrators, technology leaders and school board members are being asked to determine the ROI (return on investment) of school technology, to make the case to their communities that these technology investments are worth the expense, the professional development and the growing pains. Additionally, with the increasing concern of parents about too much screen time for their children, the impetus for schools and districts to present a case for why mobile learning is important is more critical than ever before.

This new tool was developed to help.

While we have seen huge growth in technology investments in schools, we know that relatively few schools or districts have conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of all of these mobile devices in the classroom. Rather, the approach has been mostly anecdotal, and while those vignettes or user stories are effective for painting a picture of the mobile device usage, they are no longer sufficient in many cases to build a compelling value case or to satisfy school boards and other governance bodies that are seeking more tangible outcomes to justify the investments. Continue reading

Choose Your Own Speak Up Questions (sort of)

For the last 15 years, all schools and districts have used the same questions as part of Speak Up participation. Most of the questions remain the same year-to-year (with a little updating for terms and technology), while 30-40% of the questions rotate and make room for new topics of interest.

We are happy to let administrators know they now have some control over the Speak Up questions they can ask their students, staff, parents and community! For schools who use Speak Up to track longitudinal (year-over-year) changes, you can now select to use the questions that were asked the last time your stakeholders participated, or to use the latest 2018 questions. (If you are new to Speak Up, you will use the 2018 question decks this year.)

When administrators are registered and logged in, they will now have the option to create a customized District Direct Landing. The second step of this set up is to select the version of the Speak Up questions to use this year:

  • Speak Up 2018-19 (includes a focus on coding and school safety)
  • Speak Up 2017 (includes a focus on math instruction and digital citizenship)
  • Speak Up 2016 (includes a focus on science instruction and data security)

Note that if a school district is participating in Speak Up, all of the schools within that district will use the same version of the questions. Individual school administrators may only select a question deck if their district is NOT registered to participate in Speak Up 2018-19. If your district is not registered and you would like to use a different version of Speak Up for your school, contact the Speak Up Team.

Additional options will be available for those using the Speak Up 2018-19 version:

  • Teacher PD Assessment + Speak Up 2018-19 (Available Nov. 1st) – The Teacher PD assessment is grouped with the 2018-19 version. Selecting this option will replace the Teacher questions with a shorter set of questions focused only on professional development.
  • Mobile Learning Evaluation (Available Nov. 1st) – This stand-alone option is an extension to the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning and offers a separate set of questions focused on mobile learning specifically for teachers and students only. Selecting this option will provide a set of questions focused on mobile learning specifically for teachers and students only. Select this option if you are interested in evaluating the impact of your mobile learning initiatives.

The Teacher PD Assessment and Mobile Learning Evaluation are an extension of the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning. You can use these options as stand-alone question sets or in conjunction with the 2018-19 Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning version.

We are excited to offer this additional Speak Up flexibility, and answer our users’s calls for this option to make the project even more useful!

Please join us on October 15th for one of two Speak Up 101 webinars where we will discuss these options and answer any questions you might have. As always, you are welcome to reach out to us at with questions as well!

New Learning Leaders: Principals as Instructional Leaders and Digital Evangelists

Project Tomorrow and Blackboard released a report over the summer identifying a new cohort of school leaders via Speak Up data who are rethinking instructional practices, providing a bold vision for the future of their schools, leading by example and supporting their teachers through this transition.

This new school site leader brings a set of skills and values that inherently emphasize the importance of personalized learning and effective school-to-home communications. We are calling this emerging principal profile the “New Learning Leader” as they embody the dual capacities of instructional leader and digital evangelist initiating and nurturing new modes of online and digital learning.

In a new infographic released with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) during National Principals Month, we are sharing some of the data that illustrates who these New Learning Leaders are. For instance, 74% of this principal cohort have implemented blended learning in their schools, compared with just 51% of all principals.

Learn more about this cohort from the New Learning Leader infographic and the report, Trends in Digital Learning: The New Learning Leader – the emerging role of the agile school principal as digital evangelist and instructional leader.

Blackboard is hosting a special Trends in Digital Learning webinar on Wednesday, October 17th at 2pm for education leaders to learn more about this research! Julie Evans will share more about school leaders who are:

  • Rethinking instructional practices
  • Providing bold vision for the future of their schools
  • Leading by example
  • Supporting their teachers

We’ll also be revealing new (and maybe surprising) practices that can transform K-12 education using digital tools. Register for the free webinar today.


Speak Up 2018-19 opens for participation in October. Learn more about how your school or district can take advantage of this free tool and add to the knowledge being shared about schools nationally!

Teachers PD: What Teachers Need, What Districts Are Offering

The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning regularly asks teachers and administrators about professional learning: how teachers feel about their own skills, what support teachers are looking for, what districts are offering, and what they think about the effectiveness of professional development.

Our latest infographic on this topic, Professional Learning for Teachers: New Demands Need New Approaches, shares several of the findings, including:

  • Teachers’ comfort levels with using student data to inform instruction, creating project based learning experiences, personalizing learning and facilitating student collaborations using digital tools are lagging. Just 30% of teachers said they were “very comfortable” using data to inform instruction, and of those four practices, that was the highest number.
  • Motivating teachers to change instructional practice and staff professional development remain the top two challenges administrators face in implementing innovative tools in the classroom.
  • Teachers say collaborative time with their peers is their top need to effectively implement new teaching and learning innovations, followed by traditional professional development and in-school coaching.
  • Much like students, teachers’ self-directed learning has been evolving. Between 2010 and 2017, the percent of teachers attending face-to-face conferences has dropped, while teachers watching online videos, participating in webinars, using social networks and taking online courses have all increased.
  • While 64% of districts say they offer some sort of online professional development, just 39% reported positive results from these offerings.

View this infographic to learn more. Districts looking for this type of information from their own district should sign up to participate in Speak Up 2018-19. It’s easy and it’s free!