Category Archives: Speak Up

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.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. It’s easy and it’s free!

STEAM Research From the Frontlines

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 1.20.00 PMView this summer’s webcast on Speak Up research related to STEM and STEAM interest among students across the U.S. Hosted by STEAM Universe, the webcast shares feedback from students, parents and educators, including:

  • STEAM learning trends,
  • drivers for STEAM education,
  • digital learning trends in STEAM classrooms, and
  • students’ career interest in STEAM fields.


Download the PPT slides.

Glimpse into the State of Digital Citizenship Education: Speak Up 2017 Results

Ahead of next week’s 2018 Global Symposium on Digital Citizenship, we wanted to release some brand new Speak Up data on the topic! We added some new questions to several of the Speak Up 2017 surveys to get a better gauge of the state of digital citizenship education across the country.

We asked students, teachers, parents and administrators about nine types of digital citizenship skills (as outlined in Mike Ribble’s Digital Citizenship in Schools, Nine Elements All Students Should Know). We asked:

  1. students if they are learning the skills,
  2. teachers if they are teaching these skills,
  3. librarians and school administrators if these skills are explicitly being taught in their schools, and
  4. parents and district administrators which skills are important for students to learn.

The results show two things: 1) everyone is focused on safety (and not as much on the ethical and technical skills) and 2) there is a large disconnect between what many parents and administrators think should be taught, what teachers say they are teaching and what students say they are learning.

Here’s a sample of the data findings (see full set of 9 skills in the table below).

Notably, we also ask students in a different section of the survey if this statement is true for them: “I know how to be safe online.” More than half (56%) of high school students and 60% of middle school students said this is true. Given the focus on safety, these numbers seem rather low.

We also asked adults who should have the primary responsibility for teaching digital citizenship skills, and we asked students who has taught them these skills. (Full table of this data is below)

Parents see themselves as having the most responsibilty for this, but classroom teachers are close behind. Note that just 38% of high school students and just over half of middle school students say they have learned any of these skills from their teachers. Half of high school students say they have learned most from their parents, followed closely by teaching themselves (44%). Students learning on their own ranks last among administrators and parents.

Also note that 10% of high school and 6% of middle school students said no one has taught them these skills.

We asked parents “When is the right age for children to start learning Internet safety and good digital citizenship behaviors?” More than half said lower elementary grades (1-3).

Thanks to Rod Carnill, Supervisor of Instructional Technology Coaches, Frederick County Public Schools (VA), and VSTE board member, for sharing some of this Speak Up data for us on Monday! Catch his Global Ed Ignite Session at 10:30am to learn a bit about this data and how his district is putting it to use.

And, stay tuned for more analysis of this digital citizenship data! What would you like to see? Let us know:!

Speak Up 2017 Digital Citizenship Data Tables

Digital Citizenship Skills

Digital Citizenship SkillsStudents, Grades 6-8Students, Grades 9-12ParentsTeachersLibrariansSchool AdministratorsDistrict Administrators
Appreciating that everyone has digital rights as well as responsibilities to the society at large38%38%47%34%57%49%64%
Knowing how to be safe online and use safeguards to protect our information and ourselves63%53%89%59%87%78%93%
Knowing how to use various communications tools appropriately41%40%60%46%64%62%68%
Knowing how to use, and how to learn to use, technology for learning purposes58%52%66%66%77%75%73%
Learning how to be an effective consumer in a digital economy23%24%36%19%37%29%59%
Learning how to protect one’s self from the physical and psychological dangers of technology use44%37%73%30%63%51%77%
Understanding ethical and lawful use of digital tools29%33%64%38%70%57%80%
Understanding that not everyone has access to technology35%38%40%42%37%37%45%
Understanding what are appropriate and inappropriate digital behaviors52%47%78%59%81%75%85%
Audiences were asked:

Students: Digital citizenship is the set of norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. Which of these types of digital citizenship are you learning about in school?

Teachers: Digital citizenship has been defined as the set of norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. Which of these types of digital citizenship are you explicitly covering in your class this year with your students?

Librarians and School Admins: Digital citizenship has been defined as the set of norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. Which of these types of digital citizenship are students at your school receiving explicit instruction?

Parents and District Admins: Digital citizenship is the set of norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. Which of these types of digital citizenship do you think are most important for students to learn today?

Digital Citizenship Responsibility/Influence

Digital Citizenship Skills - Responsibility/InfluenceStudents, Grades 3-5Students, Grades 6-8Students, Grades 9-12ParentsSchool AdministratorsDistrict Administrators
Afterschool program leader5%8%5%11%11%19%
Classroom teacher47%53%38%73%88%91%
Media specialist12%8%31%61%57%
Other students9%26%20%5%11%16%
School librarian28%16%7%22%41%40%
Student learning on their own/Learning on my own17%35%44%11%14%17%
No one has taught me this4%6%10%
Questions asked:
Adults: "Who should have primary responsibility for teaching digital citizenship to students at your school?

Students: Who has had the biggest influence on what you know about being a good digital citizen? Who taught you how to be a good digital citizen?"


Download an infographic with this data.

Between October 2017 and February 2018, 340,927 K-12 students, 33,156 teachers, 1,677 librarians, 2,423 administrators, 23,159 parents and 4,611 community members representing more than 10,619 public and private schools and 3,222 districts shared their views as part of Speak Up 2017. Schools from urban (29%), suburban (37%), and rural (34%) communities are represented. Well over half of the schools (68%) that participated in Speak Up 2017 are Title I eligible schools (an indicator of student population poverty). More on Speak Up 2017 Methodology.