Every year for the past 17 years, Project Tomorrow has surveyed and analyzed data from K-12 students, parents and educators about digital learning in and out of school. Findings are typically presented during an annual Speak Up Congressional Briefing in Washington, D.C., to inform policymakers, education and community leaders.

The Speak Up project represents a very large dataset, with more than 136,000 K-12 students, educators and parents across the United States. This year they were in the unique position to capture perceptions on the state oSpeak Up Reportf digital learning in schools before and after closures due to COVID-19.

How Schools Value Technology Changed

What really struck us was how the need to respond to this unprecedented event changed how schools value technology. In the 2018-2019 report, they found that the majority of schools were using cloud-based tools for student learning and over half were using mobile devices while in school.

Our customers have made the choice to use technology in their schools and while there are differences in their approaches, the main driver is to prepare their students for college and career that will make use of an ever-widening array of tech tools.

“While digital tools have become more commonplace in our schools, the vast majority of educators prior to the spring 2020 school closures were not visualizing technology as an effective delivery mechanism for instruction.” 90% of educators and administrators reported that the value of using these tools was to increase student engagement and only one-third of administrators said tech had any effect on student outcomes.

Project Tomorrow says that the most important change that happened in the spring of 2020 was a shift in perspective. School closures put digital tools front and center. They weren’t for motivation or an accessory for learning; digital tools became the de facto “primary instructional platform.”

They boiled it down to 3 big ideas:

  • teachers increased their ability to evaluate outcomes related to digital learning
  • parents gained appreciation for the tech tools that support their children’s learning and in supporting their children at home
  • students continue to value tech in learning, including use of more videos and more games

External video and digital material has jumped

Both students and teachers value the use of animations or simulations to illustrate difficult concepts. Project Tomorrow reported an increase of 41% during school closures.

Similarly, 64% of teachers prior to school closures used educational videos in class. That jumped to 72% with distance learning.

At TextbookHub, we have seen this changed mindset happen over time, with some schools leading the way and gradually gaining experience with technology. But this past spring made it starkly clear that schools need the flexibility of digital learning, and we were there to answer their questions and help schools along that path.

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