Each year, the education nonprofit Project Tomorrow spearheads Speak Up, a national online research project that collects and reports the views of K–12 students, educators and parents on a variety of education and technology issues.
More than 3 million stakeholders have participated in the survey since its inception in 2003, the results of which are shared with federal, state and local policymakers to inform education programs, policies and funding.
Speak Up 2012 data has been available to participating schools and districts since February this year, but the national release of findings is still a few weeks away. On April 19, Project Tomorrow CEO Julie Evans will present to Congress the insights of the 39,713 parents and 62,357 teachers, librarians and administrators who completed the 2012 survey. In early June, Project Tomorrow will present data from the survey’s 364,240 student participants.
Educators and IT leaders who attended the Consortium for School Networking’s annual conference in San Diego this week got a sneak peek at the responses of 500 technology leaders who participated in a special Speak Up survey on the issues of primary importance to them. Here are some highlights.
Challenges Extend Beyond the Budget
Asked which issues are most challenging to them or to their district or school relating to the use of technology within instruction, IT leaders’ most popular response was providing professional development, with 46 percent of respondents citing it as a challenge. The availability of technology for student use at school was also a popular choice, at 45 percent.
Other widely cited challenges include:
- Providing technology support to teachers: 43%
- Incorporating student-owned devices into the network: 39 percent
- Evaluating emerging technologies for instructional use: 37 percent
- Digital equity issues (student access to technology and the Internet at home): 35 percent
Leveraging More Bandwidth
Forty-one percent of respondents indicated that their school or district’s Internet connectivity needs are met most of the time. But if they had more bandwidth, they would overwhelmingly do three things:
- Increase the use of streaming videos within instruction: 69 percent
- Increase the use of multimedia resources in the classroom: 67 percent
- Better utilize an online curriculum: 62 percent
Respondents were allowed to check any option that applied, and although the three aforementioned responses were cited most frequently, other uses that resonated include providing professional development for teachers (35 percent), providing online professional learning communities for staff and teachers (29 percent) and offering online or distance learning courses (29 percent).
Turning to Technology to Cut Costs, Increase Revenue
Every school and district is challenged to do more with less. Asked which technology solutions they’ve deployed in the past three years to help with budget challenges, the top three choices were parental online and phone-based notification systems, at 47 percent; cloud computing applications, at 46 percent; and tablet computers or netbooks (instead of notebooks), at 44 percent.
Communicating with parents via social media (35 percent), digital textbooks (32 percent), online professional development (30 percent) and bring-your-own-device programs (29 percent) also were cited with some frequency.
Common Core Concerns
A number of challenges are emerging as schools and districts in Common Core states prepare for mandatory online assessments beginning in the 2014¬–2015 school year. Nearly six in 10 respondents (59 percent) indicated that not having enough computers was the most significant obstacle they faced, and 56 percent noted that the need to train teachers and studentswas similarly onerous.
Other widely cited challenges include:
- Costs to modernize infrastructure: 44 percent
- Limited facility space to accommodate a testing lab: 42 percent
- The need to increase technology support staff: 42 percent
- Costs to implement the online tests: 41 percent
Defining the “Ultimate” School
Asked which tools or strategies hold the greatest potential to increase student achievement and success, 84 percent of respondents identified the ability to access the Internet anywhere in school as a characteristic that the “ultimate school for 21st century learners” should have. Providing digital content was also a popular choice, at 76 percent.
Other technology offerings that would maximize teaching and learning, they said, include:
- Adaptive learning software, which adjusts levels of difficulty and content to address student needs: 71 percent
- Digital media creation tools: 66 percent
- Online textbooks: 64 percent
- Tools to help students and teachers organize their work: 60 percent