Monday, February 10, 2014

Speak Up Survey 2013 - Student Voices

This year our students, teachers, parents, and administrators participated in Project Tomorrow's national Speak Up Survey. Each year Project Tomorrow polls hundreds of thousands of individuals to identify trends in education technology. Speak Up also provides individual schools and districts access to their data for use in planning their own technology infrastructure and long-term goals.

Last week THE Journal published an article on trends in the national data. After reading the article, I was curious how we compared and identified ten trends based on upon the feedback from middle and high school students.

1. Access - Online and BYOD
Similar to last year's results the vast majority of our students are connected online and many are bringing their own devices. 92% of our high school students and 79% of our middle school students reported having computers at home with "fast" Internet, while 2% of high schoolers and 17% of middle schoolers use "slow" (likely dial-up or slow broadband) connections. Many of our students are bringing their devices to school. Smartphones are the most common (41% for middle school and 62% for high school), followed by laptops (11% for middle school, 34% for high school), and tablets (11% for middle school, 20% for high school). Interestingly, in many cases students reporting having devices, but they did not bring them to school. For example, all of the high school students who completed the survey reported having a smartphone and 63% reported having a laptop. 

2. Thoughtful about Digital Footprints
I think every adult worries about what kids are posting online. Are they creating a positive digital footprint or harming their reputation for life? Fortunately, so too are our students. The vast majority of NCS students (82% for middle school and 92% for high school) reported being careful about what they post online and many (49% for middle school and 61% for high school) have advised friends not to post inappropriate content. 64% of middle school students and 76% of high school students stated that they know how to be safe and protect themselves when online. Additionally, they recognize the value of a positive digital footprint with 63% of high school students and 58% of middle school students reporting the importance of a positive online profile. In nearly every statistic for this area of questioning our students were 20-30% above the national average.

3. Desire for Online Learning
With the rise of blended and online learning programs Project Tomorrow asked students about their feelings regarding online education. 61% of our middle school students and 81% of our high school students reported that they are either interested in taking an online course or are already enrolled in one either for academic goals or for personal learning. The top three reasons for wanting to take an online class for both groups were - "Class could better fit my schedule," "I could earn college credit," "I would be in control of my own learning." Middle school students cited an interest in taking math, computer science, and world language online classes, while high school students were interested in online classes for computer science, world language, and college prep skills.

4. Use of Video for School Work
Students widely reported that video is increasingly becoming one of their key learning tools. 49% of middle schoolers and 58% of high schoolers reported watching videos they found online as a regular part of doing schoolwork. Similarly teacher-produced videos, such as screencasts, are also resources commonly used - 54% of middle school students and 64% of high school students.

5. It's All About Laptops & Smartphones
The survey has multiple places where students identify the types of tools they are using or would like to use, so it is a bit challenging to pull out exact numbers. However, they repeatedly shared that they really only use two types of devices - smartphones and laptops. Smartphones are primarily used to communicate with friends and check grades, while laptops are used for writing, creating videos, collaborating on projects, and communicating with teachers. Tablets and digital readers are used by students, but in much smaller amounts.

6. Building the Ultimate School
As part of the survey students were asked a series of questions where they designed the ultimate school. The top three components for both groups were anywhere/anytime Internet access (92% high school, 85% middle school), use of personal mobile devices at school (82% high school, 76% middle school), and high speed color printers (79% high school, 74% middle school). A close fourth was the desire for every student to have a laptop to use at school (68% high school, 77% middle school). The students also mentioned that our current school Internet connection was way too slow (43% high school, 25% middle school), so would like faster Internet in their ultimate school.

7. Communication & Collaboration
In multiple places in the survey our students reported using technology often for communication and collaboration. When asked about the types of writing they did online students commonly mentioned blogging (23% high school, 32% middle school), creative writing or journaling (40% high school, 53% middle school), essays for school (90% high school, 78% middle school), and creating text for websites (23% high school, 31% middle school).  Both middle and high school students reported using social media tools (78% high school, 50% middle school) and text messaging (83% high school, 65% middle school) as resources for communicating with each other. Some students also reported seeking out schoolwork assistance from other students through social media (43% high school, 16% middle school).

8. Gaming for Learning
As is no surprise to a secondary teacher, many students reported that video games are part of their daily lives. As a matter of fact 22% of high schoolers and 26% of middle schoolers identified video game consoles as their main method of accessing the Internet at home. Throughout the survey students indicated that games were a tool they thought teachers could use to enhance their learning. 26% of high schoolers and 55% of middle schoolers reported seeking out educational games to learn more about content in class. Some of their reasons for seeking out games included "Games make it easier to understand difficult concepts" (35% high school, 62% middle school), "I would be more engaged in the subject" (53% high school, 54% middle school), and "The game would adapt to what I know and make it harder or easier for me" (43% high school, 43% middle school).

9. College & Career Readiness
The survey contained questions were students were asked about college and career readiness and their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers. 68% of high schoolers and 73% of middle schoolers expressed interest in pursuing these types of careers. Overall, they felt that Natomas Charter School was preparing them for the future (see #10), but had some suggestions for how we could improve college and career readiness. The top four suggestions were "Allow us to take field trips to visit companies and meet successful role models" (61% high school, 69% middle school), "Provide information about summer or part-time jobs or internships in my field" (58% high school, 52% middle school), "Have programs during the school day about future careers" (55% high school, 52% middle school), and "Let career professionals teach lessons at school (50% high school, 50% middle school). High school students were also interested in working with mentors who can assist with career and college planning (53%).

10. Supportive Environments, Worried About the Future
As I mentioned in #9, overall the students felt they were being prepared for their future college and career goals. When asked which types of workplace skills they were learning through school our students reported above-national-average preparedness in every category. A few strong ones included "creative thinking" (88% high school, 79% middle school), "critical thinking and problem solving skills" (83% high school, 74% middle school), "working with diverse groups of individuals" (90% high school, 72% middle school), and "teamwork and collaboration skills" (73% high school, 77% middle school). A few areas where they suggested we could grow are "financial literacy," "understanding of civics and community responsibility," and in middle school "ability to communicate in more than one language." Many of our students reported having supportive teachers and families who were involved in their education and knew that they could do well. While our students do feel that they are being prepared for the future, they indicated that they are worried about what that future may actually be (63% high school, 31% middle school). What I found a little concerning is that in both grade spans students were more worried that the national average (by almost 30% in the case of high school). This may be related to the effects of the local economic recession over the past few years.

These are just ten trends I noticed looking through the data. The survey itself has even more information. Next week I'll post and analysis of the trends identified by teachers, parents, and administrators. In the meantime if you are interested click here (NCS Staff) to download a spreadsheet of our results.

In closing I will leave you with one last statistic that might remind us that digital is not always better. While it is easy to assume that our students always prefer digital tools reading through these results, they still sometimes prefer more traditional tools. For example, only 18% of high schoolers and 32% of middle schoolers reported a preference for reading digital books over printed book.


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