The WHY of Public Education

Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on September 11, 2016

Palm holding card with the word WHYStart of the school year has been notable on Facebook as almost every parent with whom I’m acquainted has shared those infamous first day of school photos.

And as students and staff report back, organizations such as Phi Delta Kappa International, US News & World Reports, and even state departments of education are releasing data and reports that coincide with the start of the new year. The most notable one that has come my way to date has been the Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) article on perceptions held by the public regarding public education.

PDK’s 48th annual public poll entitled “Public Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,” measuring opinions about public education, lacked consensus over the main purpose of public education. 45% of its respondents, representing a random sample of more than 1500 adults covering all 50 states, believe public education is meant to prepare students academically. Another 26% feel the primary role should be to prepare students for citizenship, while another 25% feel the purpose is to prepare students for the workplace.

What I find most puzzling is the lack of explanation of preparing students for citizenship, but even more so that 26% of respondents felt this was the primary intent of education generation after generation. The survey went on to share more data about how students are performing, opinions on keeping schools open when failing, and general perspectives on what our schools are doing to meet the needs of their students. And before I digress too much, let’s take a moment and look at the list of tasks we expect from our teacher, let alone our public schools. We’re responsible for teaching all subjects, receive hefty criticism when students are obese and we aren’t doing enough with physical fitness. We cover sex education and driver’s education, and the list goes on.  I think this picture says it all:

Many words for teacher showing the varied roles a teacher plays

But back to the survey. There is clear confusion about what the purpose is of education, of public education. With the split data shared above, should we be doing our work differently? If only 45% feel we should be covering academics, then should we be doing less in a focus on academics?

When I think of conversations I have with parents about the use of technology, I get push back that a focus of tech to communicate and collaborate should be reduced. Granted, I always advocate for a balance. But yet…we have workplaces with a colossal reliance on technology, and if we focus on the 25% of parents who want us to prepare students for the workplace, then there really is a role for workplace preparedness, which includes technology.

I don’t expect the responses to change. A great deal of expectations are placed on the deliverables of our public education system. I predict that the confusion will also continue – much is expected of us. And much will continue to be expected. And the WHY won’t change.

But it may morph a bit. Stay tuned.

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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).

Trends

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.

 

 

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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?

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Print books are still da bomb!

Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on June 16, 2015

With the expansion of technology and the social media world accessible to our youngest of generations, it’s no wonder Kindles, Nooks, and iBooks are growing in popularity. In our household, iPads have been the norm for years. But like the emerging trends of the 13–17 year olds in households and schools, our nine-year-old twins prefer…you guessed it…print books!

Girl on couch reading a book.

Recent statistics report that, despite being tech savvy, the 13-17 age group aren’t big e-book consumers. While 20% of teens report purchasing e-books, 25% of 30–44 year olds and 23% of 18–29 year olds buy digital copies.1 While younger readers are open to e-books as a format, the age group continues to express a preference for print that may seem to be at odds with their perceived level of digital savvy.

Are my twingles any different than their older counterparts? It’s doubtful. Several factors play a role in the preference of teens toward print publications, and they are similar to what my mini-me’s have in play.

First of all, their mother still prefers print, be it the traditional get-your-fingers-a-bit-dirty newspaper each morning, the paperback novel that welcomes a dog-ear, or the ability to share a book with a sibling, a friend, a parent. Or maybe it’s the giddy role model I provide when, traipsing around the country, I find a used bookstore full of treasures!

Secondly, the word of mouth power of print books or magazines is much greater than their electronic counterparts, as I recently witnessed with a group of little girls after a football tailgate party. “Oh, I loved that book,” exclaimed one of seven, when looking at a paperback copy of one of the recent Goddess Girls books strewn on a bedroom floor. “Me too!” exclaimed another. My twins watched, and I couldn’t help but ask, “Have you read one?” I would have been stunned if my dirty pant-kneed tomboys had said yes, as the others, clearly girlie girls, headed toward the makeup and music. Yet two days later, having picked up one copy at a used bookstore and coerced one of my daughters to read “just the first fifty pages,” the Little Blonde One admitted the rest were going on her list to Santa.

Finally, my daughters aren’t very visible on social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or blogs unless I’m closely supervising their use on my accounts. However, the teens out there benefit from the bandwagon effect that social media can create around reading resources, especially series. If an author can gather a following with just a couple of books, sales of more are soon to follow.

Guess a screen can’t replace everything.

_______________

1“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Tech-Savvy Teens Remain Fans of Print Books.” Newswire. Nielsen, 9 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 June 2015. <http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/dont-judge-a-book-by-its-cover-tech-savvy-teens-remain-fans-of-print-books.html>.

 

 

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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.

 

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