More than 210,000 students from 1,535 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia responded to a recent call by the nonprofit group NetDay to share their ideas about how technology should be used in schools. The results will help shape the nation’s third National Educational Technology Plan now in development, federal officials say.

During an initiative called Speak Up Day, NetDay and its partners solicited student feedback on technology through an online survey. Although the event was supposed to last one day–Oct. 29–organizers extended participation through Nov. 5 in light of the tremendous response.

“We are overwhelmed with the thoughtful responses expressed by the students who participated and the teachers who guided them through the survey,” said Julie Evans, chief executive officer of NetDay, a national organization known for its successful school wiring programs.

Of the 210,000 students who responded to the survey, 5 percent–or more than 10,000–were students in grades K-3.

Not surprisingly, respondents overwhelmingly indicated that technology is important to their education. Ninety-seven percent of students in grades 7-12 said it’s important or very important, and 83 percent of these students said losing internet access would have a definite impact on their schooling.

When asked what they plan to do to get more involved with decisions about technology at their school, responses ranged from “set up a school-only chat room for kids to talk about technology” and “start a new club about technology” to “run a fundraiser to get more money for computers” and “find a way to turn every desk into a laptop.”

“I am thoroughly impressed with the thoughtfulness of the students’ responses and the almost total lack of apathy,” Evans said. “The responses are very action-oriented, with a lot of personal responsibility and initiative. These kids are not only interested in how technology is being used at their schools, they are also interested in helping to find solutions to the challenges–and that includes financial challenges.”

She continued, “Many of the quotes include ideas that the kids have for fundraisers and other ideas to get new or more equipment at their schools. These students view themselves as part of the solution, and I think that is very positive for the future. I am especially impressed in the grades 3-6 student responses to this rather sophisticated call to action.”

Evans said organizers are compiling the responses and will prepare a national summary report no later than Jan. 1. The group will conduct a more in-depth analysis of the results after that and will brief members of Congress this winter, she added.

In addition, school leaders will be able to log onto the NetDay web site in December to view the survey responses from their own schools and compare these responses with their state results and the national report.

“We think getting [those] data back out to the schools to help jump-start dialog at the local level is important,” Evans said.

Teachers whose students participated in the survey agreed that having student feedback will be instrumental to spurring local success with technology.

The responses were “real eye openers,” according to Anne Beacham, educational technologist at DeLalio Elementary School in Jacksonville, N.C. “We had a chance to see technology through the eyes of the students. We are looking forward to the survey results and anticipating making valuable adjustments in the way technology is used at [our school].”

“Kids need to have a voice,” said Diane Bennett, technology coach at Mt. Juliet High School in Tennessee. “We learned from the students that they are using instant messaging at home to help each other. Now I am investigating and researching through the web how we can impact learning using that strategy. We can’t meet needs unless we hear from the students.”

John Bailey, director of technology for the U.S. Department of Education, called the Speak Up Day initiative a “tremendous success” and said he is looking forward to reviewing the summary report in December.

Bailey said the event is part of a two-pronged approach to making sure students have a voice in the creation of a national ed-tech strategy. The other part is looking at market research to identify who today’s students are, what they are looking for from their schools, and how education can meet their needs, he said.

NetDay’s partners in the Speak Up Day intiative included the American Association of School Administrators, Benton Foundation, Cable in the Classroom, Consortium for School Networking, International Society for Technology in Education, National School Boards Association, State Education Technology Directors Association, and TECH CORPS.

In addition, the following corporate partners helped support the effort: Bell South Foundation, Sun Microsystems, Google, and Apple Computer.

Links:

NetDay
http://www.netday.org

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov