From the Editor

SIIA's Vision K-20 Survey

The Software & Information Industry Association has released the complete results from the 2012 SIIA Vision K-20 Survey. The Vision K-20 Survey is an annual online self-assessment. Educators and educational leaders in K-12 classrooms; schools and districts; and postsecondary courses, departments, and campuses are asked to rate their institution on 20 benchmark statements that represent the instructional and institutional outcomes enabled through technology and e-learning. Each benchmark is rated on a four-point scale, with the lowest level of use scored as 1 and the highest scored as 4. The survey has been administered every year since 2009 and the analysis includes three-year trend data. Some increases and decreases were recorded for individual benchmarks among both segments (K-12 and postsecondary), but changes over previous years are relatively minor. The average scores on the 20 benchmarking statements in the 2012 survey were 2.39 for the K-12 segment and 2.71 for Postsecondary.

SIIA reports that the four benchmarks on which schools have made the most progress in 2012 are exactly the same as in 2011 and 2010 for both K-12 and Postsecondary, although declines are seen on both high-speed broadband access benchmarks, which are among the greatest declines since last year:
  • Security tools to protect student data and privacy
  • The availability of high-speed broadband access for robust communication, administrative, and instructional needs
  • High-speed broadband access enables instructional uses that include collaborative learning, video-based communication, and other multimedia-rich interactions
  • An institution website/portal provides the education community with access to applications, resources, and collaboration tools
The news here appears to be that there is no news. On the whole, schools continue to make progress on most fronts, though the pace of change seems to be glacial. It serves to remind that this is hard work. The Vision 2020 benchmarks are not trivial goals. It's also true that this is not a controlled tracking survey in which the same person or team from School A or District B rates the goals each year. Some of that happens for sure, but sample variability can mask small changes. That's not a criticism of the survey. It would be very expensive to do same institution tracking from year to year. For that matter, getting any type of data from schools is really difficult right now.

 And I see several interesting things in this year's K-12 results. Average scores for broadband decreased this year. The "availability of high-speed broadband access for robust communication, administrative, and instructional needs" was scored as 3.24 this year down from 3.40 in 2010. Similarly, "high-speed broadband access enables instructional uses that include collaborative learning, video-based communication, and other multimedia-rich interactions" scored 2.95 this year compared to 3.07 in 2010. The SIIA analysis notes that these findings "suggest that as the demands of technology continue to expand (need for greater broadband, access to technology resources for educators) and schools have not been able to keep pace with demands due to funding." I agree. Broadband is one of those areas where it will always be hard to keep up with demand as more and more bandwidth intensive applications enter the market. Schools have already invested a lot in upgrading access and while they know that investment has to continue, in tight budget times they may have decided to redirect some of that investment to shore up areas of need.

Areas that saw growth include:
  • Courseware and/or learning management systems are used to differentiate instruction (2.07 from 1.91)
  • Information systems track performance and institutional data for educational accountability and decision making  (2.49, up from 2.35 in 2010)
  • Institution leaders use technology tools for planning, budgeting, and decision making (2.52 from 2.42)
  • Technology-based assessments measure a full range of 21st Century skills and knowledge (2.01 from 1.9)
These are all areas related in some way to accountability and the schools have spent the last three years building capacity in this area.

There are also several items with small score decreases, such as "interactive, adaptive, multimedia courseware and simulations are used in teaching and learning" and "students have access to courseware and technology-based curriculum" that may reflect a change in this year's respondent pool. On 2012 there was an increase in the proportion of respondents reporting for their class or course, and a decline in those reporting for their district or campus compared to the last two years. Of the 1095 K-12 participants, only 425 were district-level respondents. It's not unusual for school-level personnel to report less access to technology or less use than their district-level counterparts. They are the people on the ground, more aware of the frustrations and failings. They also have a more limited perspective, aware only of what is going on in their classroom and building, while district-level staff see the bigger picture.

SIIA did some interesting gap analysis that you might want to read and also a full analysis of the results for the postsecondary sector.

One last point. This year, for the first time in the survey, participants were asked to answer each of the 20 benchmarking questions based on both their current level and their ideal level of technology integration. Overall, 75% or more of K-12 respondents chose the highest level of use as their ideal level. For example, 97% said they would like the highest level possible for high-speed broadband access, educator access to technology resources (95%) and student security (93%), but ideal levels of use fall off sharply for several items:    Educational content is delivered flexibly in digital formats, media, and platforms (52%)
  • Technology-based assessments measure a full range of 21st Century skills and knowledge  (46%)
  • Online courses ensure all students have access to high-quality instruction, no matter their location or schedule  (45%)
  • Computer-based or online assessments are used to inform instruction  (34%)
At first this data really worried me, until I dug a little deeper. For the "Computer-based or online assessments are used to inform instruction" benchmark, the highest level of use is defined as "All assessments are done using technology." That's more than I want to subscribe to, so it's no surprise that educators were not totally enthusiastic about getting to the highest level of use for this benchmark. For the benchmark "Educational content is delivered flexibly in digital formats, media, and platforms" the highest level of use is defined as "Delivered primarily though technology with some print-only materials." That more than half of K-12 educators want to see that benchmark implemented at the highest level is no small matter. We're getting there.