A Different Kind of Learning Experience

Posted by Sandra Miller on May 11, 2016

SU15Report_finalEvery year Project Tomorrow releases findings from their Speak Up Survey. I am always amazed at this research and how I can use it with different stakeholder groups to move technology forward.  The project’s wide participant base helps!  Over 500,000 people participated in this year’s survey, which includes 415,686 K-12 students, 38,613 teachers and librarians, 40, 218 parents, 4,536 administrators and technology leaders, and 6,623 community members.

This year’s report is a bit different from previous ones.  Instead of focusing on changes around technology use, it focuses on what the Speak Up Surveys have documented over many years: “…the emergence of pixel-based digital tools, specifically, videos, games, animations and simulations, as legitimate vehicles for learning”  (emphasis mine).


How is this happening and what were the results from students, parents, and teachers?  Some significant trends are highlighted below.  Each is accompanied by a link to an infographic you can use to begin a conversation with your groups.

  • Students are learning via YouTube:  38% are finding online videos to help with their homework.  Infographic
  • K-12 Parents are on board with technology from using it at home to receiving text messages.
    • Tech use in school is important to student success. (85%)
    • Parents are concerned that technology use varies from teacher to teacher. Infographic
  • Teachers are using more and more digital content in the classroom with flipped learning growing rapidly.  Videos (68%)  digital games (48%) online curriculum (36%) online textbooks (30%) an animations (27%).  Infographic

The disruptive nature of technology has brought about change in our schools.  Today’s leaders are more on board with technology than ever before, but we recognize some road blocks to moving forward. The top barrier, according to 57% of principals, is “lack of teacher training on how to integrate digital content within instruction.”  Interestingly, 35% of teachers say they are interested in professional development on implementation, and are open to online instruction as well.

Key finding

The key finding of Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up Survey?

“Students, educators and parents agree—we need a different kind of learning experience for the future.”

Certainly, it is a changing instructional world.  I hope these nuggets from the report will pique your interest and lead you to want to read and share the full report, From Print to Pixel: the role of videos, games, animations and simulations within K-12 education.




Speak Up Survey Findings for Principals

Posted by Sandra Miller on November 30, 2015

Door to principal's officeSince the late 19th century, the name on the door has said principal. In the 21st century, it does still. However, the principal’s multi-faceted role has continued to evolve.

Today more than ever, principals must keep up to date on the culture surrounding their schools, even as they focus on student learning. Everyone has an opinion, especially about technology. Where is your school in relation to some of these key findings from a recent Speak Up Survey?  Should you move in one of these directions? Would your parents and teachers agree?

More than 9 out of 10 administrators say that the effective use of technology within instruction is important for achieving their school or district’s core mission of education and preparation of students.

Over three-quarters of parents (78%) say that the best way for their child to develop college career and citizen ready skills they will need for future success, is to use technology on a regular basis within his or her daily classes at school.

52% of teachers in blended classrooms say their students are developing collaborative skills as a result of using technology within learning.

Three-quarters of principals attribute increased student engagement in learning to the effective use of digital content in their blending learning classrooms.

There are more key findings from students and others on the Project Tomorrow Speak-Up website, including ready-to-show graphics to help principals present this information.

Register your school or district to be part of the Speak Up Survey and receive your school data free. It is an easy way for all your stakeholders to participate in local decisions about technology.  Deadline to Sign Up: December 18, 2015

Kate Rousmaniere has written, “Yet by the nature of their background and role as educators, principals have always been concerned with student learning, and principals across time have played a pivotal role in shaping the educational culture of schools.”

How might you use these findings to shape your school?


Ten Things to Know About K-12 Students’ Digital Learning

Posted by Sandra Miller on March 27, 2015

Three students using ipads.
Photo by Lexie Flickinger.

Project Tomorrow’s “Speak Up” annual findings have been a guiding force in our educational world.  Here are ten key findings from the project’s most recent survey of 431,231 K-12 students nationwide (used by permission). You’ll want to be familiar with these!

1.  LEARNING VIA YOUTUBE. 40% of students are finding online videos to help with their homework and 28% say they regularly watch videos created by their teachers.  Not being able to access social media is the biggest barrier with using technology at school.

2.  STUDENTS ARE MOBILISTS! Personal access to mobile devices has reached several significant tipping points: 82% of 9-12th, 68% of 6-8th, and 46% of 3-5th graders are smartphone users now

3. MORE GAMES PLEASE. Almost two-thirds of students want to use digital games for learning at school. Why? Across all grades, students believe that games make difficult concepts easier to  understand. 67% say that using technology within learning increases their engagement and interest in the subject content.

4. STUDENTS WANT TO CODE! ESPECIALLY GIRLS! 53% say YES to coding as a class or after school activity with 1 in 5 being Very Interested in learning how to code. Amongst girls, 64% of 3-5th and 50% 6-8th graders want to code!

5. TEACHER – I HAVE A QUESTION! Students are regularly using digital tools outside of school to communicate with their teachers about schoolwork questions. 48% ask by email; 16% by texting.

6. TWEET-TWEET? 46% of 9-12th graders are Twitter users now—4 times more than in 2011, when only 11% were tweet-tweeting.

7.  I’LL TAKE MY LEARNING MOBILE. 75% of students think every student should have access to a mobile device during the school day to support learning. Many are already doing that! 58% are using their own smartphone for classwork. 47% are taking photos of class assignments or textbook pages.

8. TAKING MATH CLASS ONLINE. 42% of 6–8th graders say taking an online or virtual class should be a requirement for graduation. And what class would they like to take online? Math!

9. CHANGE IN SOCIAL MEDIA USE. Students are interacting less with tradition social networking sites—41% of students in grades 6-12 say they never use Facebook—but spending more time with content creation sites. 44% say they use YouTube all the time!

10. LAPTOP, TABLETS, SMARTPHONES, OH MY! GOODBYE 1:1! Different tasks = different tools! Laptops top students’ list for writing a report, taking online tests and working on group projects. Smartphones are #1 for connecting with teachers, accessing social media, and watching a video.

I read the list. Now what?

As you read through the list I’m sure you thought, “I should share this with my staff.” That’s easy! Download this colorful one-page summary and share it tomorrow.

Sharing the ten findings is a great step, but the challenge is how to move forward and act upon them. As educational leaders we see students bringing new technologies and new ways of learning into our schools and classrooms. Helping our teachers learn new technology based instructional techniques to meet these challenges requires time and energy, with modeling a key factor that every leader should remember.

As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu famously said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So take time to learn just one new digital skill yourself. Select from websites that offer a variety of 2.0 tools. Demonstrate that tool for your teachers and give them time to try it out on a subject of their choice.  Learn together and continue building the digital toolbox for everyone. Here are some to check out.

Don’t forget to become a part of the PROJECT TOMORROW Speak Up Community. Hopefully your school or district has signed up to participate in the Annual Speak Up Surveys.  It is free. Surveys are  prepared for you, and your results reported back.  Click here for more information.



Resources for Digital Leadership

Posted by Sandra Miller on May 13, 2014

Today’s educators are fast becoming “digital leaders” in their schools and districts.  It’s almost expected that they will be able to provide leadership to everyone—staff members, students, and parents—as new technologies continue to become a part of learning.

I work with educators who are earning Leading Edge Certification.  It’s a new certification that focuses on site, district and regional administrators and was developed by an alliance of educational organizations that includes TICAL. The goal is to prepare these leaders to  effectively utilize technology tools, resources and innovative solutions to advance student achievement, foster educator productivity and extend learning opportunities for all.   The program is composed of six modules plus one “elective” topic.

Screenshot of Common Sense Media home page with Digital Citizenship menu indicated

Since I’ve been working with this program, one area that really stands out is the ability of these leaders to find and share information about “cyberbullying,” which is part of the Digital Citizenship module.  One tool that has been especially helpful to them is the non-profit Common Sense Media website. Related resources are found under the Educators tab by clicking on Digital Literacy.

Principals and superintendents have added web pages to their school or district websites to provide parents with an understanding of bullying as well as how to seek help.  They have used videos and prepared information for parent workshops and meetings.  And of course they have given links, videos, and discussion guides to teachers.

Cyberbullying is just one part of digital literacy.  Common Sense Media also offers resources on helping students understand the permanence of their online presence, as well as how to best utilize technology tools. 1:1 guidance and professional development have their own sections.  I have no personal connection to Common Sense Media, but I have had over 100 superintendents or principals use the site with much success and comment it was one of the best aids to them in fulfilling their job as a digital leader.


Leaders of the 21st Century

Posted by Sandra Miller on May 28, 2013

The sign on the door today, usually in block capital letters, is the same: PRINCIPAL.  Yet, as I used to say to everyone, “The job is so different now!”  For the 15 years I was a principal, that statement remained true as the role evolved to accommodate new technologies, new ideas, and new requirements.  Never has it been truer than today.Cartoon of 21st century school administrator

Our current digital age is rapidly changing the role of the principal and the roles of all leaders in our schools.

  • Can a principal really be effective without a smart phone?
  • Is a blog or Twitter account necessary to keep parents posted on what’s happening at school?
  • How can leaders make the Internet and appropriate learning technologies available to all students?
  • How can we best provide professional development for teachers tasked with facilitating personalized learning?

It’s a challenging list of questions and it continues to grow.  Today’s leaders—superintendents, assistants, principals, and support personnel of all types—are working to become 21st Century leaders.  National, state, and local conferences (Leadership 3.0, CoSN, CUE, and ISTE come quickly to mind) focus on leading the learning through digital technology.  TICAL provides online resources and free workshops across the state to help leaders meet the new demands.

Now a special, new type of certification is being offered throughout California and elsewhere.  Called Leading Edge Certification, the program focuses on how to effectively utilize technology tools, resources and innovative solutions.  School and district leaders learn critical skills such as how to infuse innovation, create optimal millennial learning environments, develop digital citizenship, and evaluate online and mobile learning programs.

Learn more about TICAL’s certification program that will take place this summer.  Certification is also available through ACSA’s Innovative Technology Academy.