From the Editor

Speak Up 2016 Results

Project Tomorrow has been releasing elements of its Speak Up 2016 data at various industry meetings over the past six week, leading up to the Congressional Briefings in Washington D.C. Speak up has been collecting data about the role of technology for learning since 2003. More than 514.000 surveys were completed during the 2016 data collection (October 2016 to January 2017), from more than 435,000 students, 38,000 teachers, 4,500 administrators, nearly 30,000 parents, and 5,800 community members. The most recent release highlights trends in the Speak Up data.

The most recent release highlights trends in the Speak Up data, including:

Schools are providing a variety of mobile devices to students in school. Middle school students report having access to Chromebooks (44%), laptops (33%), and tablets (20%). By high school, most students report using laptops (40%) or Chromebooks (32%). Tablets are used by only 9% of high schoolers. Nearly 60% of high school students and 25% of middle school students bring their own devices to school for use in the classroom.

Social media is being used more widely in schools. In 2011, 50% of students in grades 6-12 said they could not access social media tools at school. In 2016, only 38% of students reported such restrictions on social media,

When directed by teachers, students use assigned mobile devices to:
- Do Internet research (81%)
- Play educational games (60%)
- Take online tests (50%)
- Read online articles (37%)
- Use online textbooks (32%)
- Watch teacher created video (29%)

According to school principals, these education tech approaches and solutions are generating a positive ROI in terms of student academic outcomes:
- Using student data to inform instruction
- Social media use to communicate with parents and students
- Online assessment
- Videos, simulations and animations within instruction
- Cloud based applications and tools
- Student access to mobile devices in school
- Online professional development for teachers

Speak Up asked teachers about what they looked for in determining the quality of digital content.
Most Important                    Least Important
Content is fresh                    Carries OER label
Aligned to standards            Search engine rank
Adjusts to reading level        Expertise of content developer
Modifiable by the teacher     State Department of Education recommended
Research-based                   Mobile app version

It's no surprise that alignment to standards is important. And given the drive to personalization, teachers want the flexibility to be able to modify resources to meet student needs. Digital content can include sufficient scaffolding to allow readers of various levels to move through required grade-level texts as well as providing resources at a student's current reading level. I think it's really good news that teachers are looking for research-based resources. ESSA talks a lot about the importance of using research- or evidence-based materials. But it's one thing to make policy statements and hold conferences about evidence based instruction and another for that to become embedded in schools' everyday practice. Teachers are looking for products that work and they need research that shows not only that a product is effective, but that details the circumstances under which it works best.

It's refreshing to see that the OER label is not that important to teachers. MDR research has consistently found that teachers are not that aware of or as likely to report the use of OER as might be expected, given the amount of attention that OER garners. It's also important to remember that OER ranks more highly among curriculum directors and school leaders, so it will be among the materials being considered. That's OK, as long as OER is evaluated using the same metrics that are being applied to commercial materials. State Department of Education recommendations don't seem to matter all that much to teachers either. It's a bit surprising the expertise of the content developer is not considered important. It's probably that teachers read this as referring to an individual developer or team as opposed to the expertise of the publisher or sponsoring organization. 

I've been tracking Speak Up results for a long time. Each year we see incremental advances in access to technology and increased classroom use, much like those reported above. Over the last few years the question of why we are not seeing more significant changes in classrooms has bothered me. It seems I'm not the only one. In a new blog posting, Project Tomorrow reflects on teachers' readiness and willingness to adopt digital tools for learning. The blog notes that, "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." 

The blog points out that while more than two-thirds of teachers report external indicators of change—such as using more videos in the classroom or relying upon cloud applications—fewer than a third say that they use online primary sources within instruction, create investigations for students with digital tools or engage in online professional learning communities.

The latter activities are not so much about technology as they are indicators of changes in teaching practice and opportunities to transform learning. Too many teachers are using technology to do things they have always done, without rethinking the expanded possibilities technology brings to the table.

Speak Up also asked teachers what type of support they need to be able to use technology more effectively. Their top requests were:
- Professional development
- Planning time
- Devices for student use
- Technology support

I've been hearing those same requests since the days that the Apple II and Commodore PET were first introduced into classrooms. Project Tomorrow notes that they would like to see teachers "thinking more deeply about what will make a difference in their capacity to use technology more effectively to change and improve their own teaching practice." This kind of thinking might result in requests for curated or recommended sets of resources, rubrics for evaluating digital content quality and coaching on high-impact lesson plan development

Until we can help teachers move beyond mere adoption to more innovation and adaptation, we are unlikely to see real systemic change. The same is true for personalized learning or project-based learning or competency-based education. It's hard work to move beyond replacement and replication, but if we hope to truly prepare students for their futures, our classrooms have to be transformed.