State College, Pennsylvania, June 26, 2012 – Schoolwires has partnered with Project Tomorrow to create a white paper on “Defining the Emerging Role of Social Learning Tools to Connect Students, Parents & Educators”. The paper is an examination of the findings of Project Tomorrow’s 2011 national Speak Up survey, and explores how social learning is being used by K-12 education stakeholders to better understand the value proposition for incorporating social learning tools into the classroom. The Speak Up survey was conducted in fall 2011 among 330,117 K-12 students, 44,006 parents, 36,477 teachers, 2,025 librarians, 814 district administrators, and 3,319 school administrators representing 5,616 public and private schools from 1,250 districts.

The white paper addresses four research questions:
 How is “social learning” defined in an education setting?
 Is there an unmet demand for the greater use of social learning within schools?
 What is the value proposition around social learning?
 How can new technologies mitigate some of the concerns that still exist about social learning?
“We highly value innovative companies like Schoolwires that appreciate the importance of the views of K-12 education stakeholders, especially the students, ” said Julie Evans, Chief Executive Officer, Project Tomorrow. “Schoolwires listens to their clients and understands the challenges that schools and districts face every day. Those challenges come out loud and clear through the Speak Up data; it is so refreshing that Schoolwires goes beyond just listening to actually creating products and solutions that address those needs directly. We also appreciate the leadership that Schoolwires provides within the education sector by making reports like this one available to share expertise and stimulate new discussions. We believe the Project Tomorrow/Schoolwires partnership is one built upon shared values and a strong mutual desire to improve educational opportunities for all students.”

Each year, Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit organization, facilitates the annual Speak Up National Research Project. The key findings in the 2011 survey are:

1. Students, teachers, administrators and parents are increasingly recognizing the value of social learning in both their personal and professional lives. Data point: Over three times more principals are using social networks now (45%) compared to 2008 (12%).

2. Students, in particular, have heightened aspirations for more effectively leveraging social learning tools to enhance their engagement in the learning process, access more interesting and relevant educational content, tap into additional opportunities for collaboration with peers, advisors and mentors and overall, to increase their academic productivity. Data Point: Students’ wish list for their ultimate school includes safe chat rooms to discuss school projects with classmates (51%), tools to help organize their schoolwork (45%), school work related blogs and wikis (44%) and school portals with one-stop information (41%).

3. Despite this strong value proposition, school site administrators and parents continue to have lingering concerns about social networking, Internet access and the role of social learning tools. Data Point: 57% of parents say that they are concerned about cyber-bullying, an increase of 54% since 2008.

4. Speak Up data has revealed a new cohort of school site administrators who are particularly interested in leveraging social learning more extensively within instruction. Those administrators are paving a new path for the innovative use of these tools within their schools and districts. Data Point: Administrators who value tech-enabled social learning are not necessarily only the very tech-savvy administrators. In fact, 62% of the administrators who support social learning assess their technology skills as average compared to their peers and they represent elementary, middle and high school administrators.

“Today’s students believe that learning experiences that are socially-based and digitally rich are the best ways for them to prepare for the future,” said Ms. Evans. “Increasingly, innovative solutions such as those from Schoolwires and other companies are addressing this unique student vision and providing valued support to schools and districts interested in leveraging technology more effectively to drive student engagement and achievement.”

“New research detailed in our white paper illuminates a new way of thinking about the role of social learning in the classroom,” said Christiane Crawford, Chief Executive Officer and President, Schoolwires. “Together with the findings from the Speak Up Survey, it provides a roadmap for administrators who want to share information more efficiently, provide new learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom, increase parental engagement and facilitate strong collaborations between teachers and students. Technology makes it possible for every student to participate in a social learning environment, and it is time for schools to take advantage of the innovative tools that are available.”

About Project Tomorrow
Project Tomorrow® is the nation’s leading education nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of student voices in education. With 16 years of experience in the K-12 education sector, Project Tomorrow regularly provides consulting and research support about key trends in K-12 science, math and technology education to school districts, government agencies, businesses and higher education.

About Schoolwires
Schoolwires, Inc. provides a suite of technology products and related services to more than 1,300 educational entities, including K-12 school districts and schools in the United States and China. The company’s technologies are designed to foster community, student, teacher and parent engagement in the classroom, locally and internationally. Its solutions include an integrated website and content management system, a safe social learning and networking system, and an enterprise technology platform. Schoolwires brings together a district’s essential technologies, information, and content to effectively engage the K-12 community in support of district and student success. The company currently serves an estimated 10 million users and has been recognized as one of the top privately held education companies for the fifth consecutive year by Inc magazine. Schoolwires was incorporated on April 5, 2000 and is headquartered in State College with offices in Beijing, China.
© 2012 Schoolwires, Inc. All rights reserved.

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