National Survey Shows District Use of Web 2.0 Technologies on the Rise

From press release:

National Survey Shows District Use of Web 2.0 Technologies on the Rise and Improves Learning

Research sponsored by Lightspeed Systems, netTrekker and Atomic Learning indicates districts must overcome safety concerns, knowledge gap and limited support systems for effective use of Web 2.0

NEW ORLEANS (March 25, 2011) – Results of a new research survey indicate growing acceptance of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies among school leaders and educators. Levels of use have improved since 2009 across several categories of Web 2.0 tools, including online social/collaborative networking. However, student safety and lack of teacher knowledge about how to use Web 2.0 technologies effectively remain barriers for many districts. These are some of the major findings of “Digital Districts: Web 2.0 and Collaborative Technologies in U.S. Schools,” a national survey of more than 380 district technology directors conducted by Interactive Educational Systems Design (IESD) on behalf of Lightspeed Systems Inc., netTrekker, and Atomic Learning.

“While the survey results are promising, it also indicates areas of needed improvements to ensure school districts can meet the individual learning needs of the Net Generation,” said Dr. Jay Sivin-Kachala, vice president and lead researcher for IESD. “The research reveals that educators increasingly rely on Web 2.0 technologies, resulting in positive teacher and student outcomes. To foster effective use across all classrooms and ensure equitable learning opportunities, districts need to provide safe Web 2.0 access, enhanced teacher professional development, and robust support systems.”

Lightspeed Systems, netTrekker and Atomic Learning partnered on a joint initiative to help schools maximize the learning opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 tools, while ensuring a safe and engaging online educational environment. The group first surveyed district technology directors in 2009 to examine the current status, future plans, and ongoing challenges of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in K-12 education. The survey examined district policies, plans and levels of use of several categories of Web 2.0 technologies.

The key findings from the survey, detailed in the “Digital Districts” report, include:

  • Districts reported an increase over the previous year in the use of Web 2.0 technologies by 25% or more of teachers, across several categories: teacher-generated online content rose 12%, student-generated online content grew 13%, and online social/collaborative networking was up 20%. However, online social/collaborative networking was one of the least used tools for two consecutive years. This year, a majority of district respondents (65%) reported that very few or no teachers used this technology.
  • Lack of teacher knowledge about how to use the technologies effectively was the most frequently cited human-related barriers to adoption, and the most often cited technology-related barriers included student safety concerns and limited support systems (including technology personnel). Levels of use for online social/collaborative networking and student-generated online content aligned with district concerns over student safety and the need to monitor appropriate use.
  • District size was a factor in the attitudes toward Web 2.0 technologies and in the use of these tools. Across several Web 2.0 categories, the larger the district size, the more likely respondents were to report a positive attitude in their district. Midsize districts were more likely to report several positive teacher and student impacts as a result of Web 2.0 use.
  • Many districts are using or plan to use a variety of Web 2.0 applications for professional development, including educators posting content online (76%), use of online collaboration and communication tools (56%), and online professional development courses (49%).

New in the 2011 study, survey respondents reported on teaching and learning outcomes of Web 2.0 use. About half of the respondents reported an increase in students’ familiarity with technology (53%) and students more motivated to learn (48%) as a result of Web 2.0 use by students in their district. Other outcomes cited included an increase in student academic engagement (39%), and improved students’ collaboration skills (38%). Only 27% reported that incorporating Web 2.0 tools into the classroom had resulted in students using resources aligned to their individual learning needs, which suggests that one of the primary goals of Web 2.0 use is not being met.

A majority of the respondents reported an increase in teachers’ familiarity with technology (71%) and improved resources for teaching in the content areas (62%) after educators utilized Web 2.0 technologies, with 44% indicating improved teacher communication with students.

The “Digital Districts” research report outlines recommended action steps for school districts to incorporate Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies into the classroom in effective and meaningful ways. The survey results indicate that many district leaders see potential in using Web 2.0 to help meet student’s individual learning needs, but unless Web 2.0 use is tied to academic objectives, it will remain on the periphery of education. Many districts still need to establish policies and procedures for effective implementation of various Web 2.0 technologies—plans that address aligning Web 2.0 use to curriculum, assessment of Web 2.0-related skills and abilities, student safety and data security, teacher professional development and ongoing support, and appropriate use.

The full research report is available at

Personal note: I’m not posting this as an “endorsement” of Web 2.0 tools, or suggesting this is perfect research. The parts of the survey I would trust most are the year to year comparison of attitudes, since that would likely rule out the issue of this being a self-selected group of respondents. I’ve written in the past that “free” tools are never really free, since time is worth money, and other factors. (See Web 2.0, the meltdown, and educationTen to ask – How to predict the Web 2.0 winners, and Still no free lunch 2.0)

Also, we’ve seen before that just because administrators or technology directors believe something to be true, parents, teachers, and especially students may have very different experiences to share when you ask them. (See Survey reveals disconnect in online safety education and How are schools doing with technology? It depends who you ask. )


Get the evidence you need for your tech vision to succeed!

A back to school thought… when you are planning for technology, do you know what your stakeholders think, want, and need? It’s difficult to reach out to everyone, to include the parents who don’t come to meetings, students, and administrators who might not want to speak up.

There is a quick and painless way to gain this valuable insight – but you have to DO IT NOW!

Participate in Speak Up 2010 through Fri., Jan 21, 2011

Join with educators from across the country who use the Speak Up Surveys to identify how their students, teachers, administrators and parents want to use technology for learning, communications and collaboration. Participating in the Speak Up Surveys is free and 100% confidential.

Last year, over 5,757 schools and 1,215 districts participated in the Speak Up Surveys. All these districts got terrific customized data about how their stakeholders view technology, and how they compare to other districts. This is the data YOU need to support your technology vision, and there is no other way to get it.

It’s easy to get started, visit the Speak Up website to register your district (or school). Then encourage your students, parents, teachers and administrators to take the online survey. To help you out, check out the tools and tips on the Project Tomorrow website.



Speak Up 2010 – Get the evidence you need for your tech vision to succeed

Participate in Speak Up 2010 through Fri., Jan 21, 2011

Join with educators from across the country who use the Speak Up Surveys to identify how their students, teachers, administrators and parents want to use technology for learning, communications and collaboration. Participating in the Speak Up Surveys is free and 100% confidential.

Last year, over 5,757 schools and 1,215 districts participated in the Speak Up Surveys. All these districts got terrific customized data about how their stakeholders view technology, and how they compare to other districts. This is the data YOU need to support your technology vision, and there is no other way to get it.

It’s easy to get started, visit the Speak Up website to register your district (or school). Then encourage your students, parents, teachers and administrators to take the online survey. To help you out, check out the tools and tips on the Project Tomorrow website.


Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions

“Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions” – a quick Google search didn’t turn up the source for this quote, but I’ve heard it for years. It’s one of those simple yet profound statements that sums up interconnectedness, yet vast difference between teaching and learning. “Managing” these conditions on either side without the core involvement of the teacher or the student is just impossible.

In this new report, Transforming School Conditions, 14 accomplished teachers from urban districts around the country merge their own experience in high-needs schools with the best current education research, to discuss conditions that are are needed for teachers to teach all students effectively. Their recommendations for school policy and practice offer a guide to developing systems of support for meaningful and sustainable school reform.

Their recommendations highlight the need for any reforms in teaching to come with a high degree of involvement of the affected teachers — not to be delivered from the top down, outside in, or by an imaginary superhero. The changes have to come from those “at the coalface,” as they say in Australia, meaning those who are in the trenches doing the real work.


Bill Ferriter provides a summary and perspective on this report if you don’t have time to read the whole thing (but you should!)

Report: School Principals and Social Networking

via press release:

A new research report was issued today that summarizes the results of an extended look at school principals’ use of social networking. The underlying research for the report, “School Principals and Social Networking in Education: Practices, Policies, and Realities in 2010,” was conducted by, IESD, Inc., MMS Education, and MCH Strategic Data.

Since the creation of MySpace and LinkedIn in 2003 and Facebook in 2004, online social networking has quickly become a pervasive means for people to connect all over the world. Yet schools are one of the last holdouts, where many of the most popular social networking sites are often banned for students, and often for teachers, librarians, and administrators, out of a concern about safety, privacy, confidentiality, and lack of knowledge about how best to ensure appropriate use.

At the same time, education reform initiatives from all corners—Federal and state programs, education research, and policy initiatives—are advocating the use of innovative and collaborative technology to drive improvements in teaching quality and student achievement.

The goal of this research study was to take a close look at the attitudes of school principals about social networking for their own personal use, with their colleagues, and within their school communities. Principals can play an important role in encouraging and training their teachers and staff to adopt new technologies, and in setting policies for the use of technology and the Internet in schools.

The research was conducted in two phases: an online survey sent to a cross section of educators across the country in the fall of 2009, followed by an in-depth EDRoom online discussion with 12 principals who are currently using social networking in their professional lives.

Among the key findings:

  • Most principals who responded to the survey believe that social networking sites can provide value in education because they provide a way for educators to share information and resources with an extended community of educators, create professional learning communities, and improve school-wide communications with students and staff. About half of the surveyed principals felt that social networking is very valuable for these purposes.
  • Most of the principals in the discussion group thought that social networking and online collaboration tools would make a substantive change in students’ educational experience. Specific types of changes they mentioned included:
    • Development of a more social/collaborative view of learning
    • Improved motivation, engagement, and/or active involvement
    • Creation of a connection to real-life learning
  • None of the responding principals in the discussion group had school/district policies in place on social networking that were deemed adequate, suggesting the need for conversations and collaboration on establishing policies that can facilitate appropriate use of social networking in schools for educational purposes.

The PDF is being made available for free. Download School Principals and Social Networking in Education: Practices, Policies, and Realities in 2010 (PDF)

Back to school – what tech vision will you share?

Back to School time! How did this happen so quickly…

One thing that parents are faced with every fall is the giant packet. Everything you need to know, sign, and send back with checks attached as school starts. In the giant packet is the schools Acceptable Use Policy, known as the AUP to most techie educators. To parents, of course, it’s known as paper 23 of 42, likely to be ignored. To make sure that even diligent parents ignore it, schools create AUPs full of dense legalese, hoping that if anything bad happens, they are “covered.” Whatever that means.

When you see a principal on the news explaining why his school is suspected to be the center of a huge student porn network, does he ever hold up the AUP and say, “but we’re covered!” No, of course not. So why do schools believe that the AUP really does any good at all? And why, oh why do we send this out without a shred of explanation about the GOOD that we expect from students using technology?

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be policy in place, and that these policies shouldn’t be communicated. Of course they should. But why send something home guaranteed to intimidate, or worse, bore parents?

I’ve written about this before (What message does your AUP send home?)

I truly believe that EVERYTHING we do sends a message. It’s important to take a step back and try to put yourself in parent’s shoes for a moment and read the AUP from that perspective. In most AUPs, there is not a shred of positive vision for what “Use” means. They should be called UUPs, or Unacceptable Use & Punishments.

Where is your vision shared? How do you communicate with parents and students about your hopes and dreams for technology? If this is your one chance, and you have to send out the AUP anyway, why not rewrite it so it reads like a vision instead of a promise of punishment? At least add a cover letter to it!

Sure, parents will flip through the packet and might not read it. But then again, it’s your one chance – why not take it?


Thinking about revising your AUP? Visit David Warlick’s wiki School AUP 2.0 for links and an RSS feed to many schools with visionary AUPs.

Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009

New data from the U.S. government National Center for Educational Statistics: Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009.

This First Look report presents data from a spring 2009 Fast Response Survey System FRSS survey on the availability and use of educational technology by public elementary/secondary school teachers. The teacher survey includes information on the use of computers and Internet access in the classroom; availability and use of computing devices, software, and school or district networks including remote access by teachers; students’; use of educational technology; teachers’; preparation to use educational technology for instruction; and technology-related professional development activities. (released May 2010)

Some key highlights:

  • Teachers reported that they or their students used computers in the classroom during instructional time often (40 percent) or sometimes (29 percent)
  • Results differed by low and high poverty concentration of the schools for the percentage of teachers that reported their students used educational technology sometimes or often during classes to prepare written text (66 and 56 percent, respectively), learn or practice basic skills (61 and 83 percent, respectively), and develop and present multimedia presentations (47 and 36 percent, respectively)
  • The percentage of teachers that reported that the following activities prepared them (to a moderate or major extent) to make effective use of educational technology for instruction are 61 percent for professional development activities, 61 percent for training provided by school staff responsible for technology support and/or integration, and 78 percent for independent learning
  • Of the teachers who participated in technology-related professional development during the 12 months prior to completing the survey, 81 percent agreed that ―it met my goals and needs,‖ 88 percent agreed that ―it supported the goals and standards of my state, district, and school,‖ 87 percent agreed that ―it applied to technology available in my school,‖ and 83 percent agreed that ―it was available at convenient times and places

The data is broken down by school size and location, teacher experience, and lots of other variables. They asked about blogs, wikis and other social media, both for parent and student communication as well as class assignments. so if you want to know what percentage of teachers have students contribute to blogs or wikis, and how that varies urban to rural, poverty level, or by years of teacher experience, it’s all here. (Overall, 12% rarely, 9% sometimes/often) There are little variations to ponder, like how the biggest response for “rarely” is from big urban schools.

And that carries throughout – high poverty schools do have and use computers, but the students are doing test prep, not creative work.

So – a treasure trove here for data fans out there…

Update – here’s the link to the raw data.


Tinkering and the grades question

Tinkering is still at the top of my mind these days, even though I haven’t had much time to blog about it much (besides this). But often when things are on your mind, everything you see seems to relate. If you think about buying a yellow car, all of a sudden the world seems full of yellow cars.

So reading this Alfie Kohn News and Comments article about grades made me think about tinkering again. Because often when we talk about doing something different in schools, we hear, “but how will that fit into the current classroom?” And that means everything from 42 minute periods to test prep to grades.

But tinkering is one of those things that doesn’t fit in neatly. It takes time, doesn’t result in neat projects that work with canned rubrics, and might not have any impact on test scores. But should that matter? Can’t we help kids at least a little by making things more like tinkering and less contrived and pre-planned?

Then this hit me.

As for the research studies: Collectively, they make it clear that students who are graded tend to differ from those who aren’t in three basic ways. They’re more likely to lose interest in the learning itself. They’re more likely to prefer the easiest possible task. And they’re more likely to think in a superficial fashion as well as to forget what they were taught. Alfie Kohn

These are exactly what kids need to be able to do to tinker. And grades squash that.

Maybe we are asking the wrong questions. Maybe implementing “some tinkering” where kids are eventually graded, no matter how authentically, is a contradiction. Maybe even counterproductive if it confuses kids. Is it even worth doing?

Ten commandments of school tech support

The ten commandments of school tech support

  1. Thou shalt test the fix.
  2. Thou shalt talk to actual students and teachers and make time to watch how  technology works during actual class time, not just when it’s quiet.
  3. Thou shalt not make fun of the tech skills of teachers or students, nor allow anyone else in the tech department to make disparaging remarks about them.
  4. Closing trouble tickets shalt not be thine highest calling; thou shalt strive to  continually make the learning environment better.
  5. Thou shalt not elevate the system above the users.
  6. The network will be never be perfect. Learning is messy. Get thyself over it.
  7. When teaching someone a new skill, keep thy hands off the mouse.
  8. Thou shalt listen to requests with an open mind and respond in plain English.
  9. Blocking shall be controlled by educators, not filtering companies. Thy job is to enable learning, not enforce behavior.
  10. Thou shalt include students and teachers in decision-making about technology purchases and policy. Their interest is not an affront to your professionalism.

Your thoughts?


Say the change you want to see

For schools embarking on a change process, one key success factor is envisioning what that change looks like and sharing the vision widely.

In many of the schools we work with, the change involves a vision of students and teachers working together to use technology tools in new ways. They envision empowered students stepping up and taking part in the effort to improve education. They see teachers who feel more comfortable about technology. They see students and teachers as co-creators of the learning environment.

But often, the stated objectives don’t match the full vision. There are unspoken wishes, hopes and desires that go along with the hard statistics. The problem is that if you don’t explore these hidden wishes, you can’t plan for them, articulate them, or share the vision. Sometimes these are harder to measure or they sound “soft”. But sometimes these unspoken outcomes are the most powerful of all. Surprisingly, you may find that they are widely shared, but people feel that they aren’t important or scientific.

You shouldn’t be embarrassed to say them out loud. It’s not silly to hope that the work you do changes children’s lives and to make that clear.

If you put those goals in writing, you can plan for them, and more importantly, figure out how to measure them.

Finding hidden objectives
One exercise that we do with schools is to “say the change you want to see.” It’s a simple visioning exercise. First, imagine that everything you hope for comes true. Now write a story for your community newspaper about “what happened.”

The beauty of this exercise is:

  1. It has to be simple and clear. No academic citations, obtuse language, grant gobbledygook, or pages of distracting data. Using present tense and plain language creates impact. Make up quotes and anecdotes to make it come alive. Pretend you are writing for your Aunt Betty and you’ll end up capturing the heart of the project.
  2. It uncovers unspoken wishes. Often there are outcomes that are never really articulated, but people secretly hope for. You think that teachers will use technology more, but you also hope that students will be more engaged. You write in the grant that student achievement will rise, but you hope that students will love learning and feel empowered. You purchase technology and measure its use, but secretly hope that teachers will find that spark that made them want to be teachers in the first place.

Perhaps your fantasy newspaper story starts like this.

After a year of participating in the TEAMS project, student excitement about learning is at an all time high at Fallsburg Middle School. Mary K., a seventh grade student, says, “I love learning this way, I was getting bad grades but now I love coming to school.” Parents feel the same way and see the learning as being more “real world.” Before TEAMS, only 26% of FMS parents said they felt what their children were learning in school was relevant. After only one year, this rose dramatically to 87%.

Measuring hidden objectives
So the next part of this exercise is figuring out what in your story needs to be measured and planned for. The numbers don’t have to be the actual goals, that’s not the important part. The important part is to unpack those hidden agendas and make them tangible. If some of your goals are not currently being measured, MEASURE THEM. If you don’t measure them they won’t happen and a year from now, you’ll wonder why. Do what you must NOW so you CAN write that story a year from now.

If a goal is to have happier students or more satisfied teachers, how will you know? Somebody better ask them. How will you show it? Somebody better shoot some video and collect some quotes. Plan for that now! Is one of your goals community involvement? Better ask them too! Plan some surveys both before and after the big project. If you want to say there is an improvement, you have to measure before, after, and maybe in between.

And ask what you really want to know; don’t let naysayers drain the life out of it. Some people think dry and colorless means authoritative. Don’t let it bother you when somebody rolls their eyes when you say you want to ask students if they like school better. Ask for the change you want to see.

If you don’t plan this, you won’t be able to document the real hidden hopes and dreams that bolster all the hard work and long hours. It may sound more “scientific” to collect “hard data”, but collecting targeted qualitative data can be extremely valuable.

Say the change you want to see. Ask the change you want to see. Be the change you want to see.