More than 505,000 education leaders, students, parents and community members fill out the Speak Up survey each year about digital learning from the nonprofit Project Tomorrow. That's a rich data set that school districts and states are mining as they look for ways to advance digital learning.
In February, school districts that participated in the survey received their own results that they can print or download into Excel. Because they have data from people in their districts, they can compare local results to other state and district data to see how their digital learning responses measure up.
Meanwhile, other districts that didn't participate in the survey see the national data that's published in the report. For example, 82 percent of administrators nationally say they have digital content and online resources in their classrooms.
During professional development over the summer, district leaders pull out specific data points to discuss with teachers, said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. First off, they demonstrate to teachers the demand for digital learning from students and parents. Second, they pull teacher data to demonstrate where their digital practices stand compared to other teachers across the country.
Finally, they call attention to the percentage of students who don't have steady Internet access at home. As more teachers incorporate digital content into homework, it's important to provide flexibility on assignment due dates and alternative Internet access options so kids don't get left behind, Young said.
"We need to have a greater conversation about this connectivity issue," Evans said, "and I know that many districts are waking up to that fact this year."
At the state level, policymakers often ask questions about the demand for digital content and who's using it, she said. With Speak Up data in hand, state education departments can provide data to back up their answers and advocate for funding in the Legislature to meet the demand for digital instructional materials, as well as infrastructure to support digital tools.
Each year that the Legislature is in session, Texas Education Department leaders advocate for their needs, including digital content and virtual classes, by using Speak Up data in their presentations, Evans said. Arkansas Education Department leaders recently asked Project Tomorrow to use Speak Up data in a legislative report on the state of education technology and what to do moving forward. And the e-learning team at the Indiana Department of Education has been encouraging school districts to take the survey so they can use the results to inform their own department leaders, as well as advocate for digital learning at the department and district levels.