Category Archives: Speak Up

Allowing the Community to Speak Up to Effect Change (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Tim Smith, Supervisor of Instructional Practice & Technology Integration, Red Lion Area School District (PA). Tim will be sharing steps taken to implement the survey, design the process of change, and future plans and next steps on Wednesday at ISTE 2017.

Every team, at some point, draws a line in the sand. Some even draw that line in concrete. It represents a point at which they’ve had enough of the current or past and are moving forward. That’s tough. For so many, the comfort zone is just that, comfortable. Do the same thing, year in and year out, because that’s what they know. To change requires a physical and intellectual investment of time and resources. It also requires knowledge. Teams have to know what they want to accomplish and how those around them feel about where the organization is and where they want to go.

In the fall of 2016, at the Red Lion Area School District we used the Speak Up survey by Project Tomorrow to empower the students, parents, & community to have a voice and impact the direction of the District. The survey results clearly indicated a need and desire to move to a District-wide blended learning environment.


You see, 81% of our community said they wanted something other than a “traditional classroom,” yet 79% of our teachers provided this type of environment. Is there a disconnect?

And what about our students…?

…it was clear to our team that something needed to change.

What if we did nothing to change the way that we meet the needs of our students?

Without the use of the Speak Up survey, we wouldn’t have seen our needs so clearly. We’ve now embarked on a journey of Digital Conversion in the Red Lion Area School District that will ensure that students will have access to the tools and classroom environments.

At times this has been a challenging process. We have made a few messes, and refocused our efforts. We are truly excited about the the next several months of growth…

Come learn more about our journey and the future by joining me from 9:00 – 9:45 am on June 28 for How the Learning Community Can Speak Up to Create Change at ISTE 2017 during the Leadership Playground.

Original post on Tim Smith’s blog.

Speak Up 7 for 2017: Top digital learning trends in K-12 schools today

Each year, the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning polls K-12 students, parents, and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. This survey represents the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder voices on digital learning. Since fall 2003, more than 5 million K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians, principals, technology leaders, district administrators, communications officers, and members of the community have shared their views and ideas through Speak Up.

Following are seven trends we are watching based on the more than 514,000 Speak Up surveys submitted from educators, students and parents from October 2016 to January 2017.

1. Funding, the achievement gap and staff morale top the list of superintendents’ concerns.

Over the last six years, the same six issues have topped this list of “what wakes superintendents up at night,” but the levels of concern have intensified.

In 2010, Superintendents said:In 2016, Superintendents said:
Funding (51%)Funding (64%)
Test scores (44%)Achievement gap (48%)
Achievement gap (39%)Staff morale (43%)
Staff morale (39%)College and career skills (38%)
College and career skills (20%)Teacher recruitment (38%)
Teacher recruitment (16%)Test scores (35%)

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Students Take Charge of Learning, Empowered by Technology

Aided by technology, students across the country are self-directing their own learning, no longer waiting for teachers or schools to catch up. More than 400,000 K-12 students shared how and when they learn via the Speak Up 2016 Research Project for Digital Learning.

In our latest Speak Up data release, Ten Things Everyone Should Know about K-12 Students’ Digital Learning, 2017, Project Tomorrow details some of the findings from the student responses:

  • Access to mobile devices in and out of school continues to grow. Over just a two-year period, twice as many students are now using Chromebooks in school (2014 to 2016).
  • Students are using mobile devices to self-direct learning by:
    • doing research on the Internet (84%)
    • looking up class information (59%)
    • creating documents to share (54%)
    • emailing teachers with questions (47%)
    • setting up reminders about class due dates (43%)
    • taking notes (40%)
  • Students are exploring online learning. More than one-third of middle school students say they have already taken an online class in Math, Science and English. The subjects that top their wish list for online classes include: college prep/study skills (58%), art appreciation (58%), world languages (56%), career technical/vocational education (51%) and computer science (47%).
  • More than 1/3 of students say they want to learn about future jobs and careers via online tools: online course, digital game, online videos and social media.

“Students have always self-directed some of their own learning, but with the explosion of mobile devices, 24/7 connectivity and digital resources, students are leaving adults behind as they explore subjects that interest them in the ways they learn best,” said Dr. Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “Despite all of the opportunity at their fingertips with the growth in educational technology access in schools, more than half (56%) of students say they use technology more often for learning outside of school than in school.”

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Teachers’ Readiness and Willingness to Adopt Digital Tools for Learning

At the ASU GSV Summit this week, we explored the current state of teachers’ readiness and willingness to adopt digital tools for learning with Alan Arkatov from USC Rossier School of Education, Ann Linson from East Noble School Corporation and Jessie Woolley-Wilson from DreamBox Learning.

Everyone see lots of technology in schools these days, but is that technology also changing teaching and learning? The classrooms of today still look a whole lot like the classrooms of yesterday:

Yes, the chalkboard is a white board and paper and pencils have been replaced with laptops, but other than that? Beyond the physical differences we see in classrooms, the other changes we have seen are minimal – despite the opportunities technology presents to transform learning.

While new Speak Up data shows us evidence of external indicators of change, they also indicate the lack of real systematic changes in activities, attitudes or aspirations of teachers. More than 38,000 teachers shared their views as part of the Speak Up 2016 Research Project for Digital Learning from October 2016 to January 2017.

More than two-thirds of teachers report external indicators of change:

  • Using more videos in the classroom
  • Texting with colleagues
  • Relying upon cloud applications more
  • Being in classrooms with student access to devices

But fewer than one-third say they:

  • Use online primary sources within instruction
  • Facilitate a class blog or discussion forum
  • Use an online curriculum with students
  • Create investigations for students w/digital tools
  • Engage in online professional learning communities

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Principals Are Looking for Tech Savvy New Teachers

In the midst of our Tomorrow’s Teachers Speak Up research project to learn more about the experiences and aspirations of the next generation of teachers, we took a look at what school administrators told us last fall during Speak Up 2016. A few highlights:

Principals told us they expect new teachers to:

  • Know how to use technology to differentiate instruction (76%)
  • Use technology to communicate with parents and students (73%)
  • Interpret and use data to support student learning and improve teaching practice (71%)
  • Use technology to create authentic learning experiences (65%)
  • Use technology to facilitate student collaboration (63%)

Principals value technology use for teaching and learning:

  • 84% of school leaders say it is important or very important for every student to be able to use a mobile device during the school day to support schoolwork
  • 89% of school leaders say a new teacher candidate’s skills or experiences using technology within teaching is important or very important when evaluating his/her fit or qualifications

Tomorrow’s Teachers Speak Up is open until June 2nd! We want to hear from pre-service teachers about how to leverage technology within learning; how they are being trained; what they expect when they enter the classroom; and more! College students studying to be teachers can take the confidential, 20-minute survey now!

Universities and teacher prep programs who register to participate will learn the results of what their own students had to say this summer (and it’s all free!)

Augmented and Virtual Reality in K-12 Education: Current Status and Aspirations

Augmented and virtual reality in K-12 classrooms is still predominantly in pilot implementations. Last year, Project Tomorrow released an evaluation of one such pilot in San Diego to look into how an augmented reality environment is helping high school students develop greater awareness about and interest in STEAM careers.

The opening of a high school on two floors of a new library in San Diego offered a unique opportunity to develop an augmented reality pilot program to encourage and support STEAM learning. The STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project was developed as a collaboration between the San Diego Public Library Foundation, San Diego Public Library, e3 Civic High and Qualcomm Wireless Reach. Project Tomorrow was contracted to do an evaluation of the project to examine the relationship between the augmented reality app and student outcomes.

Given that today’s students are interested in learning that is contextually relevant, the STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project was designed to take advantage of the unique architecture of the library dome to provide 9th grade students an enriched learning experience. Using Qualcomm® technology, the project focused on leveraging augmented reality content that utilized mobile, context-aware 4G technologies to allow the students to interact with digital information embedded within the library’s physical environment focusing on science, math, engineering and art related content. Similar to augmented reality used by construction teams to visualize a building prior to construction, students learned about the construction of the new library while learning the STEAM concepts associated with each structural element.

Our evaluation found:

  • The majority of the students agreed that using the 4G tablet with the augmented reality content increased their engagement in learning about the Central Library Dome.
  • The students ascribed many benefits to the learning experience including increased enjoyment in learning, ability to work on the content with their classmates, and being more interested in the dome structure and architecture than they first envisioned.
  • Four out of 10 students said that they were more interested in exploring a STEAM career field after having this mobile learning experience.
  • The teachers participating in the project believe that the mobile augmented reality environment could be used successfully to impact student learning in many other academic areas with a closer alignment with curriculum.

That work in San Diego informed new questions on Speak Up 2016 designed to learn more about the current use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in classrooms around the country, and about how students, parents and educators are thinking of these learning tools for the future. (Some of this data was released in T.H.E. Journal this month.)

Current Use of AR and VR in the Classroom

  • 5 percent of teachers say they are using AR or VR in their classroom. This was the same no matter the size or type of school district and years of teacher experience. We did see a higher percentage of computer science/technology (11 percent) and science teachers (9 percent) in high schools using AR or VR.
  • 9 percent of students in Grades 6-8 and 8 percent of students in Grades 9-12 say they have experienced AR or VR in a classroom setting.

AR and VR figure prominently in students’ vision for their ultimate school – more so than for parents and teachers at this time. Note there is higher interest reported among school librarians and district administrators, particularly those from small districts (those with >5,000 students).

AR and VR figure prominently in students’ vision for their ultimate school.

View Augmented and Virtual Reality in K-12 Education Infographic

When asked about what they need to use digital content, tools and resources more successfully in the classroom, teachers cite three key elements:

  • Classroom set of devices (56 percent)
  • Consistent technical support for classroom usage (49 percent)
  • Professional development on effective instructional practices with that digital content (48 percent)

It makes sense therefore that in regards to using AR and VR in the classroom, teachers are starting to call for specific professional development to support their efforts. An emerging cohort of teachers (approximately 1 in 8 teachers or 13 percent) says they would like PD on how to use AR or VR in the classroom. Districts are also recognizing the importance of PD on the use of AR and VR in the classroom with 20 percent of district administrators saying that type of professional learning for teachers is a priority for this year.

Our final report on the STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project concluded, “This evidence supports the idea that to stimulate and nurture STEAM career interest, the learning experiences need to replicate the inherent characteristics of STEAM content and processes. In other words, students need to be able to use advanced technologies such as 4G wireless connectivity and augmented reality, and have access to contextually relevant content to explore potential career interests.”

As Speak Up shows, the students are again ahead of most education leaders when it comes to the potential for augmented and virtual reality to spark and support learning.

Download Augmented and Virtual Reality in K-12 Education: Current Status and Aspirations Speak Up 2016 Findings.

Students’ perceptions of school vs. learning – not the same thing!

Special release of selected California Speak Up 2016 data for the CUE 2017 National Conference

While 84 percent of California middle school students say that doing well in school is important to them, their interest in school vs. learning mirrors what George Couros has often talked about as a fundamental divide. For example, 57 percent of California middle school students like learning about new ideas, 62 percent like learning how to make or build things and 70 percent say that they like learning how to do things. However, only 49 percent are interested in what they are learning at school, and only a slight majority (52 percent) says that the subjects they are learning in school are important for their future.

But, is this disconnect in name only? Do the students’ belief statements really align with their actions or is this just the latest example of a generational angst?

Consider this: while one-third of students in middle schools and high schools in California admit that they are bored at school, 75 percent are regularly sourcing and watching online videos outside of school, on their own, to learn about things that interest them. Four in ten middle school students are using social media to learn about people’s ideas and to identify people who share their learning interests, not just posting selfies and random comments about celebrities. And, this may come as a surprise to some English teachers, 45 percent of California students are tapping into online writing sites to self-improve their writing skills.

This self-directed learning is purposeful and most importantly it is driven by the students themselves around what they perceive as learning needs or interests. This self-learning imperative actually represents a very organic form of self-blended, personalized learning empowered by a ubiquitous access to technology and an overwhelming hunger for information, knowledge and learning experiences that are more challenging and meaningful than what is happening in the classrooms at their school.

View our infographic: California Speaks Up! Results from Speak Up 2016 at CUE 2017

The same is true today for career exploration – students are more likely to want to find and watch a video about an aspect of a career that interests them or take an online personalized quiz to learn about their strengths than attend a standardized one size fits all after school program or summer camp for career exploration.

This disconnect is also manifesting itself in how students are doing homework. Sensing that in many communities, teachers were still reluctant to assign digitally based or internet based homework for a number of reasons including equity of access, the Speak Up surveys this fall probed on the frequency of the use of digital tools and the Internet outside of school.

First, we asked teachers how often they assigned homework or projects that relied upon digital tools or the Internet. Then, we asked school site administrators that same question about their teachers. Finally, we asked students how often they used the Internet or digital resources to support their homework or school related assignments. Here are the results for California:

  • Just 8 percent of teachers say that they assign digital homework daily or almost daily (for CUE members that jumps to 20 percent). 18 percent of teachers say that they assign digital homework at least weekly (34 percent for CUE members).
  • About 16 percent of school site administrators say their teachers are assigning digital or Internet dependent homework on a daily basis (almost 30% of administrators who are CUE members believe this to be the case for their teachers). One-third of school site administrators say their teachers are assigning digital or Internet dependent homework at least weekly (and half of administrators who are CUE members).

So, already we see a disconnect between teachers and administrators – and even CUE members – on perception vs. actual practice.

But here is the real rub: 40 percent of California middle school students say they are using the Internet daily to complete homework (and 67 percent say they are using the Internet several times a week). We see similar findings of high school students: 42 percent say they use the Internet for homework daily, and even for students in grades 3-5, 22 percent say they use the Internet daily for schoolwork).

Speak Up 2016: How often do California teachers assign homework assignments that require Internet access? How often do California middle school students use the Internet to do homework?

This makes the disconnect between teachers and administrators look like a narrow statistical gap while the difference between teachers and students is an imposing chasm.

Students are using the Internet to support school-based learning at almost 4 times the rate in which teachers say they are assigning those types of activities. Why is this? Because quite simply, as the students explain to us every year, the use of digital tools:

  • puts the students in control of their learning,
  • makes the learning process more efficient, and
  • personalizes the experience in a way that fits their needs, in a way that we are not yet replicating in the classroom.

This use of technology in learning has evolved way beyond engagement – for the students it has always been about their vision for a new type of learning experience that is socially-based, un-tethered and real world relevant.

Do our teachers and administrators know about this reality, and if so, how are they adapting to this sea change in their learning lives of our students? How are they moving from a school-centered rules and procedures to a focus on the student learning experience? How are they incorporating information such as the Speak Up Research about how our students are self-directing learning using digital tools and resources to transform the learning experiences for all students?

Lots of important questions. It is our nonprofit mission at Project Tomorrow to help every school and district find answers to these challenges. You can learn more about our work, the Speak Up data and how your school and district can gain free access to similar data about your students at our website www.tomorrow.org.

Download the related infographic on California Speak Up 2016 data.

What do you think, CUE 2017?

For those interested in the results…

Q1: What percentage of 6-8 grade students say, “Doing well in school is important to me”?

32% of CUE2017 attendees chose the right answer of 84% & that was the top answer for the CUE audience

Q2: What percentage of 6-8 graders in CA say they regularly use online writing tools to improve their writing because they are interested (but not just because it was an assignment or homework)?

16% of CUE2017 attendees chose the right answer of 45%; Top answer for the CUE audience was 15% (half chose this answer)

Q3: What percentage of teachers say they assign homework that requires internet access DAILY or ALMOST DAILY?

26%of CUE2017 attendees chose the right answer of 8%; Top answer for the CUE audience was 40% (28% chose this answer – responses were almost evenly split among all answers)

School Communications Officers: Win $500 Towards Conference of Your Choice!

We want to hear from school communications officers from across the country, so we are offering one more incentive during this last week of Speak Up! Spend 15 minutes taking the special Communications Officer Speak Up survey and be entered for a chance to win a $500 grant towards any 2017 professional conference you choose! The winning school PR pro can attend NSPRA’s 2017 National Seminar or any state NSPRA chapter 2017 conference (or other professional conference) and we’ll contribute $500 toward the registration and/or travel expenses.

School Communications Officer Chance to Win $500Take the Speak Up survey for Communications Officers – share your views, challenges, experience to be part of our national research project – and you will be prompted at the end of the survey to enter for your chance to win a $500 grant towards the 2017 conference of your choice. >>Navigate to the Communications Officers survey by selecting the Educators survey, then the District Administrator, District Tech leader, or Communications Officer survey.<<

This is also your chance to learn more about Speak Up and how you could use our FREE survey tool to learn more from your parents, community, staff and students!

If your schools participated in Speak Up this year, we are also offering one free infographic as well!

Surveys close this Friday, January 27th, so take the survey today! The winner will be announced on February 8th!