Students and teachers across the United States are invited to voice their opinions on how technology affects their teaching and learning. The means of being heard is Speak Up Day 2005, an online survey that gives K-12 education’s primary stakeholders the chance to suggest how technology should be used in their schools. Educators and students can register to participate in the survey until Nov. 18.

NetDay, the national nonprofit organization that sponsors the annual survey, hopes to collect feedback from 250,000 K-12 students and teachers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American military bases worldwide.

“There is so much that we need to learn about how children want to use technology and how teachers are actually using it, and that’s the primary driving force behind doing this survey for the third time,” said Julie Evans, chief executive officer of NetDay. “The Speak Up surveys provide a unique opportunity for students and teachers to share their authentic, unfiltered ideas about technology and education with both their local administrators as well as national policy makers.”

The survey asks participants about their experiences while using technology for learning, and questions focus on the use of computers, the internet, gaming, instant messaging, cell phones, and MP3 players. This year’s questions also give students and teachers a chance to address topics of global and local importance.

Evans explained that open-ended questions give students and teachers the chance to think on a national or global level. The first question, which asks how leaders can use technology to deal with challenges such as tsunamis, hurricanes, and hunger, attempts to get students to think creatively about the potential of technology to solve global problems.

The second question asks children what skills they think they’ll need for the future and what their schools can do to provide those skills. “It’s their 21st century, so let’s get their opinions,” Evans said.

The survey also asks which technology devices students think are essential to have in a 21st-century classroom, what students like best about using technology to complete assignments, and what one technology-related thing students would change in their school if they were principal for a day.

Teachers’ questions ask whether pre-service education adequately prepared them to use technology for instruction, how much of a voice teachers have in their school’s technology selection, and whether teachers see technology in the classroom as an asset or a distraction from meeting No Child Left Behind standards.

Also new to the 2005 survey are questions about the use and effectiveness of online learning programs. Teachers will be asked to indicate how they view the value of online classes for professional development, their experience in teaching online classes, and how online learning helps students.

NetDay’s goals include collecting national data about how students and teachers feel about using the internet and technology in their profession and personal life, raising awareness about the importance of student and teacher voices as stakeholders in technology decisions, and promoting conversations at the local school level about the role of technology in learning with input from students and teachers.

Over the last three years, Speak Up Day survey results have been distributed to local, state, and national education officials, and the U.S. Departments of Education and Commerce have used the survey data while developing recent reports on technology and education.

“We have noticed more schools and school districts using data about their students to drive professional development and budget decisions, which speaks to the maturation of our nation’s educators,” Evans said.

“Getting the data back to schools and being able to benchmark your own students’ ideas and viewpoints against national benchmark numbers is incredibly valuable,” she added. “We enjoy the opportunity to do the national survey, but we are finding that the real high value is that schools get the data on their own students.”

NetDay has linked its Speak Up survey’s backend database with the National Center for Education Statistics database, allowing for the cross-tabulation and cross-analyzing of data based on demographics, Title I statistics, and other areas. “It gives some very interesting ways to look at the data beyond looking at how many children have an eMail address,” Evans said.

The first Speak Up Day for Students debuted in 2003, and in 2004 a Speak Up Day for Teachers was formed after an enthusiastic teacher response to the 2003 student survey. This year, the survey combines student and teacher responses.

Speak Up Day’s 2004 survey asked students what would be the one thing they would tell the president about how they use technology for learning. One middle-school student replied that everyone “should have access to a computer and technology in general,” and a seventh-grade boy answered that “[test] scores will increase if there is better and more technology in our schools, which in the end will lead to a better future.”

As of Nov. 2, 196,000 students and 26,000 teachers were registered to take the online survey. These registration figures represent about 2,200 schools across the country in roughly 50 districts, including Denver, Austin, and Baltimore, Evans said–and many school districts have signed up all of their schools to participate.

Links:

NetDay (and to register for the 2005 survey)
http://www.netday.org

Speak Up Day for Students 2004
http://www.netday.org/speakup_forstudents_2004.htm

Speak Up Day for Teachers 2004
http://www.netday.org/speakup_forteachers.htm

National Center for Education Statistics
http://nces.ed.gov