2013 Speak Up survey. Reviewing the data I noticed ten trends that were very similar to the findings published in THE Journal utilizing national data. If you haven't read what the students had to say, I would suggest starting out with that post.
The Speak Up Survey also contains separate sets of questions around similar topics for parents and teachers. We had parents from all five academies complete this year's survey and the results are equally interesting. Feel free to examine the full set of data here (NCS Staff), however below are some trends that are closely related to the ones identified in the student data.
1. Getting Online at Home
The families who completed the survey overwhelmingly reported being connected at home. 88% reported owning a smartphone and 85% reported owning a laptop. Nearly everyone (96%) described having a "fast" broadband Internet connection. Since this survey is taken online, this data might be a bit skewed. However, it is very similar to what the students (who completed the survey at school) reported. Connectivity is so important that when asked if they would be willing to pay up to $0.50 more each month on their phone bill to increase school access to the Internet 70% responded with strongly or somewhat agree.
Recognizing that many of their children already have Internet-capable devices, parents expressed high levels of support for BYOD (bring your own device) programs. 84% said that they would be very or somewhat likely to purchase a device for their child to use at school if the school had a BYOD policy. Additionally, when asked "If your child could attend two comparable classes where one teacher allowed BYOD and the other one did not" 67% reported that it would be very or somewhat likely they would want their child in the BYOD class.
3. Communication Preferences
Families completing the survey also expressed some definite preferences for communicating with teachers and administrators. Personal emails were the most preferred method (95%), followed by face-to-face meetings (55%), and text messages (45%). Automated phone messages scored fairly low (23%), so to me this data signified the importance of tools like Remind101 and Boomerang for Gmail. Many families shared that the maintain social networking profiles (61%), so tools such as Facebook and Twitter might also be powerful means for communicating with parents.
4. Technology's Potential
Throughout the survey parents repeatedly expressed the importance of technology as a fundamental component for student learning. 93% described effective technology implementation within instruction as extremely important or important. Parents also described many benefits to using digital tools for learning including access to online textbooks (75%), ability to review materials outside of school (72%), and more effective teacher-parent communications (67%). When asked to recommend good technology investments to enhance student achievement parents identified adaptive learning software (63%), digital audio and video creation tools (59%), and educational apps such as graphing calculators and translator apps (53%) as areas of interest. While families recognize the potential for technology to support student learning, they also expressed some concerns for their child's Internet use at school or home including cyberbullying (65%), online strangers (68%), sharing too much personal information online (67%), and too much time spent looking at a computer screen (71%). This data really highlights the importance of balance and digital citizenship lessons woven into all classes every year with support materials for families to use at home.
5. Online Learning
Similar to their students parents expressed a strong interest in online learning. 86% of the parents have taken online classes themselves either as part of a college program, to build their own skills, or to explore a personal interest or hobby. 52% of the respondents have taken an online class through their work or job. Additionally, parents identified certain benefits to enrolling their child into an online class including ability to to review material anytime (72%), ability to work at his/her pace (75%), obtain college credit (59%), and take a class not offered at school (65%).
6. College & Career Readiness
When asked about which skills their child would need to be college and career ready, the parents highlighted many the same skills students reported having support for at school including working with diverse people (83%), creative thinking (85%), critical thinking and problem solving (92%), teamwork (79%), effective written (80%) and public speaking (75%), and technology skills (90%). Parents did report one area - financial literacy (78%), which students stated in their survey we did not support. This might be one area where we could grow a bit as a school.
7. Common Core
Since school are in the midst of implementing the Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment is right around the corner, the Speak Up survey asked parents about their level of familiarity with the Common Core Standards. Most of our families reported moderate (30%), minimum (38%), or limited (22%) levels of familiarity. Teachers (28%), principals (18%), and online news (21%) were the greatest sources of information. This data indicates that as we more fully understand SBAC and CCSS we will need to continue to reach out to families to help them understand the changing standards as well.
As I shared at the beginning of this post these are just some of the trends I noticed. Feel free to click here to look at the full spreadsheet. Overall, I think the results really show that we are moving in the right direction when it comes to technology at Natomas Charter School. We certainly have a few places where we can grow, but our families agree that technology is a critical piece to educating children in the 21st Century.