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Now's the time to speak up

By Team ISTE
November 5, 2015
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Since 2003, Project Tomorrow has collected the viewpoints of almost 4 million educators, students and parents about education technology through its annual Speak Up survey. That’s a lot of data about ed tech. In fact, the Speak Up data set is the largest collection of authentic feedback from educational stakeholders regarding their activities, attitudes and aspirations for the use of technology in schools.

Results from the annual survey inform ed tech decision-making at the school and district levels, influence policy at the state and national levels, and tell us just how far we’ve come as well as where we’ve stalled, according to Project Tomorrow CEO Julie Evans.

Data from ISTE members hold a special place in the Speak Up vault, because it’s considered powerful input. “The [ISTE members] are on the leadership and early-adopter side of things, and we need to see that data to better understand the values of teachers that are exemplars,” Evans says.

Teacher data is slow to change

Outside the ISTE audience, responses from other survey participants take an interesting tack: The student data changes significantly every year, while teacher data is slow to morph.

“So the tools students used last fall are not what they are using this year,” Evans explains. “And how they use mobile devices, for example, changes very quickly.”

That’s in contrast to the teacher data, which tends to change very slowly. In fact, the answers teachers gave in 2015 are nearly the same as the responses in 2004. “This speaks to how difficult it is to change instructional practice and shows we have a long way to go,” Evans notes.

Click on Project Tomorrow's infographic below to download a PDF showing mobile learning stats from the 2014 Speak Up survey. 

SpeakUp 2014 Mobile Learning


When it comes to parents, historical data points to a significant change in expectations about ed tech. Today’s parents of elementary and middle school students have a different personal experience with technology, “so they think of course a teacher would use a learning management system, of course a mobile device,” Evans says.

Parents also have surprising expectations for communication from teachers. When asked last year, “How do you want your child’s teacher to communicate with you?” 40 percent said via text on their mobile phone. That’s an outcome many educators would never have predicted.

How to use the survey data

Once the data is in hand, Speak Up data is leveraged for grant writing, to support school bond campaigns and to inform digital education initiatives. The value is in the 360-degree perspective it provides, thanks to questions on how technology is being used and why, how survey participants feel about it, and what else they would like to do with it.

Putting a school bond or parcel tax on the ballot? Speak Up data comes into play in bond preparation or to identify areas that need funding. 

Planning a big tech initiative at your school? You can use the survey data to craft a tech integration plan or redline ideas. Say your district is considering digital textbooks. School leaders might think it’s a great idea, but student data from the survey might prove otherwise, perhaps indicating that students don’t feel comfortable with digital reading and would prefer other tech initiatives.
“If a district participates, they can see the spectrum of kids and their comfort level with technology,” Evans explains. For instance, the data shows that middle school students have a different digital learning experience than older students, and that the youngest students who are more accustomed to reading on a device have still different expectations. 

Survey also impacts policy

In the 11 years since its inception, Speak Up data has also made its mark on state and federal education policy.

In Texas, for instance, survey data led the state to include technology in instructional materials budgets.

And states that require high school students to take an online course to graduate have also leveraged the data. If 58 percent of parents who take the survey say an online course should be required, policymakers can stand on firmer ground when advancing that idea as a state policy, Evans explains.

Survey numbers were also used to influence changes to E-Rate and, in the past year, to clarify the seriousness of the homework gap.

“We are proactive in sharing our data with organizations that are creating policy,” Evans notes. All the more reason to participate.

The Speak Up survey is open through Dec. 18. More than 70,000 have participated in Speak Up 2015 so far. Add your voice!