U.S. students who want to share their thoughts on the state of educational technology in the nation’s schools have until Nov. 12 to participate in Speak Up Day 2004, an online survey that aims to give K-12 students a say in how schools use technology and the internet.

Building on the success of last year’s inaugural Speak Up Day event, the NetDay organization–a California-based nonprofit group that supports the use of technology in schools–hopes to hear from 500,000 K-12 students enrolled in public, private, charter, and parochial schools from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and on American military bases worldwide.

“Speak Up Day is a tremendous opportunity for students in our nation’s schools to engage in meaningful civic engagement,” said Julie Evans, chief executive officer of NetDay. “Last year, many schools used Speak Up Day data to inform parents about technology, draw local businesses into supporting their schools, educate teachers about today’s students, and bring attention to their technology needs.”

Congressman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), right, and McPherson Magnet School principal Tara Saraye observe a student using a computer during a recent NetDay event in Orange County, Calif.(Photo courtesy of NetDay)

Response was so great last year that officials at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) agreed to consider students’ survey responses in drafting the 2004 national ed-tech plan.

“It was really important for us to have a student voice represented,” said Susan Patrick, director of ED’s office of educational technology, which published the plan. Patrick says a final version of the plan is expected later this year.

Having grown up in a society that thrives on high-speed communications and computer access, students share an affinity and understanding for technology, which Patrick says is essential to building new learning strategies. When it comes to the application of technology in schools, “American students are our ultimate constituents,” she explained.

Approximately 40 percent of the questions on this year’s survey are new questions, Evans said. Topics will include timely inquiries into cyber-bullying, plagiarism, the educational value of video games, and what types of writing students do using technology.

NetDay also hopes to get a better sense for how schools are integrating technology into the curriculum. Questions such as “How do you use technology to help you learn about science?” and “When you are doing math homework, or assignments, which of these technologies are you most likely to use?” are meant to move the national conversation away from specific hardware and software applications to the value of technology in improving instruction.

The survey also gives students a chance to make suggestions for policy reform.

One open-ended question asks, “What is the one thing you would like to tell the next president about how you use technology for learning?”

NetDay plans to send these answers to the president after his inauguration next year.

NetDay encourages entire schools to sign up for the survey. As an incentive, administrators in participating schools will receive access to their own aggregated school data–at no charge or fee. Though they won’t be allowed to identify students individually based on their personal responses, administrators will be able to track the data at both the classroom and building level, so they can compare local responses to national averages.

Evans hopes the data will have both a national and local impact on reform. Schools taking the survey for the second straight year also will be able to compare responses from year to year to see how students’ opinions toward technology have changed, she said.

“Schools that participate are finding the data to be so valuable,” added Evans. As schools continue to align themselves with the data-driven provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), there is no substitute for hard evidence of technology’s success, she said.

Last year, more than 210,000 students across all 50 states took part in the survey. (See “Students see tech as necessity, say schools fall short.”) Its findings suggested that students were becoming heavily reliant on technology as an eMail and communications tool and were, by and large, disappointed with the amount of technology education and access they were getting at school.

In June, NetDay released the results of its first-ever NetDay Speak Up Day for Teachers. More than 11,000 teachers from 1,885 schools completed the survey, which found teachers are using technology more than ever to improve learning and meet the goals of NCLB. This, even though teachers reported that limited time and access prevent them from using technology to its full potential. (See “Teachers: Limited time, access cut school tech use.”)

As of press time, NetDay had registered more than 238,000 students in 975 schools across 50 states to participate in this year’s event. Some 25,000 participants already have taken the survey, according to Evans.

NetDay also is holding a series of local Speak Up Days to increase awareness of the program and touch off a local conversation about the value of technology in schools. Individual events were held recently in San Francisco Oct. 14 and in Orange County, Calif., Oct. 20.

Links:

NetDay

NetDay’s National Report on Speak Up Day 2003: “Voices and Views of Today’s Tech-Savvy Students”

U.S. Department of Education