The annual SpeakUp Day survey, a key indicator of attitudes and opinions toward educational technology, opens Nov. 1. Program organizers say the free online survey, which has probed hundreds of thousands of teachers and students about their views on technology in schools, this year will include a version for parents, too.

Conducted by NetDay, a California-based nonprofit focused on integrating technology into the classroom, the survey now is entering its fourth year. Schools can register by visiting the organization’s web site at www.netday.org.

NetDay CEO Julie Evans said the latest version–composed of multiple-choice and open-ended questions–aims “to create not only interesting data, but to stimulate the national conversation” around the growing importance of technology in the nation’s classrooms.

Apart from polling students about the role technology plays in their daily lives, both at home and in schools, Evans said, the survey also will question parents and teachers on a variety of topics, from their views about online learning, to the types of skills students should be learning in the 21st century.

Also new this year, NetDay has worked with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to preparing students for the challenges of the new knowledge-based economy, to draft a series of questions exploring how students, teachers, and parents rank technology literacy in relation to future success.

One such question asks parents to think about the kinds of investments they would make if they were advising their child’s school on technology purchases. Another asks them to list the types of skills their children should have when they graduate from high school, while a third asks whether good experience in technical disciplines such as math and science is critical to future success.

“It’s not just about technology, it’s about what we’re doing with technology to prepare kids for the global economy,” noted Karen Bruett, director of education and community initiatives for Dell Inc., a member of the Partnership.

By bringing parents into the conversation, Evans said, the goal is to add a new dimension to an ongoing debate about the use of technology in schools. Their responses to some questions, she said–including one that asks parents how they prefer to receive information about their child’s education–could affect how schools reach out to stakeholders in the future.

Schools can register by going to the NetDay web site and signing up. Already, Evans said, more than 1,500 schools are registered to participate. The organization hopes to collect responses from 250,000 students, teachers, and parents by the time the survey closes Nov. 30.

Just as it has in the past, she said, NetDay plans to combine the information it collects from participants into a national report.

But to help communities make better use of the data, she said, the organization also will continue its tradition of distributing survey information locally, providing participating school districts with responses from students, teachers, and parents whose children are enrolled in their schools. As a result, local administrators will have a valuable snapshot of their community’s views on ed tech: what they consider their top needs, goals, desires, and so on.

NetDay encourages districts to sign up all of their schools. In the past, several large metropolitan districts–including Baltimore, Austin, Chicago, Denver, and others–have participated.

In the past, districts have used the information collected through the survey to help lobby local policy makers for technology investments in schools and make decisions about how best to integrate technology into the learning environment.

In Chicago, for instance, officials are working with the mayor’s office to lobby for the creation of a citywide wireless network, Evans said. The hope is that the data obtained through the survey will help make the case for that investment.

The information also has been used to help shape federal policy through the creation of the National Education Technology Plan and to influence civic partnerships and business dealings.

“It’s had a very far-reaching impact,” said Evans of her organization’s efforts.

To get parents involved, Evans said, NetDay is working with local parent organizations and educational institutions to spread the word and encourage widespread participation.

NetDay also is distributing a series of “How-To” guides to schools, intended to increase awareness of the program, she said.

The kits, available for free on the organization’s web site, include information for teachers and parents about how best to use the data that are collected, ways to encourage community participation, how to register for the survey, and what types of questions to expect.

Evans said her organization is counting on schools and parents to help get the word out.

Links:

NetDay
http://www.netday.org

Partnership for 21st Century Skills
http://www.21stcenturyskills.org