Student Engagement through Technology
Technology provides a remarkable gateway to reach young people, who are technologically savvy and often use the Internet as their first source of information. Online resources are a wise and efficient way to target and reach youth.
The National Governors Association designed an online survey to identify the feelings and experiences of thousands of young people, including high school students who intend to graduate, have dropped out of school, or are considering dropping out and teenagers who have not yet begun high school. Over 10,000 young people completed the survey from February to July of 2005. The large sample size combined, with a thoughtful survey protocol, resulted in very informative findings:
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Arizona are currently conducting a national survey of 12- to 18-year-olds to gain a deeper understanding of why they take part in out-of-school-time programs. They decided that an online survey would be the best method to meet their multiple needs, which included a wide variance in anticipated answers regarding why and how youth participate in out-of-school-time activities, the ability to target subpopulations of youth in various geographic areas, and the need for the survey to be national in scale. The resulting National Youth Participation Study online survey was designed to be easily accessible, features colorful design elements, employs formatting with which most young people would be familiar, and utilizes short questions and responses to allow for a total completion time of 20 minutes. A critical aspect of this study is the unusually long time frame; the survey will be online for several years to maximize participation.
- Among students currently enrolled in high school, less than 1 in 10 find high school to be "very hard" while more than 1 in 3 find school to be "easy."
- Over half of the students said that they would work harder if their classes were more interesting and relevant.
- Of the students who have left school or are considering dropping out of high school, the majority said that the following reasons would make them more likely to stay in school:
- Personal attention and assistance with academics
- If I knew I'd earn more money after graduating
- If I knew I'd get a better job after graduation
The National Youth Participation Study is an example of a tool designed to reach youth respondents that is successful due to a well-designed and appropriate site structure that engages youth and due to the continued patience to reach the required sample size.
> Read an article by one of the principal researchers
> Read the entire survey
Federal Computer Week , "This is an opportunity that people really took advantage of because they knew that elected officials were listening." And, according to Joseph, the comments featured detailed and informative ideas: "I'm talking about 365 very grounded, substantive posts that people spent a considerable amount of time not only writing but often giving footnotes at the bottom about what books and articles they're referring to back it up." According to the Commission's most recent report, beginning in 2004 the Commission held 7 hearings at City Hall and local universities and held a town hall meeting in each of the five boroughs to hear testimony on issues affecting the public school system.
One positive (and perhaps unintended) result of the pervasiveness of online technology in the civic and educational arenas has been the dramatic and disproportionate rate of participation of young people. For example, the New York City Council formed a special commission of experts and stakeholders to formulate recommendations on how to best use the anticipated court-mandated $5.6 billion intended to achieve adequacy in New York City public schools. However, the majority of the initial 8 public hearings held by the commission were sparsely attended. Andrew Rasiej, chairman of Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education (M.O.U.S.E.), suggested to the commission's chairman, Anthony Alvarado, that an online forum to post comments could allow for greater participation.
The "Your Voice, Your Schools" online hearings were held for two weeks in February 2005. Almost 200 citizens took part in the forums. An additional 165 New Yorkers e-mailed the moderator, Barry Joseph of Global Kids, who told
To join the discussion groups, a user simply registered his or her name, e-mail address, age, gender, ethnicity, and brief biographical information. In addition to the work of the moderator, two representatives from Global Kids monitored the traffic and posts in each discussion group, recommending to participants which groups might best match their interests. The commission hoped that the online forums would focus on six subjects:
However, a benefit of online forums with multiple discussion groups is that the topics of discussion do not have to be bounded. Again, this has particular relevance to the empowerment of students and other groups whose voices are frequently left out of school reform dialogues and decisions.
- class and school size
- teacher retention, recruitment, and quality
- after-school programs
- pre-Kindergarten programs
- facilities and technology
- school accountability
1 Borden, Lynne. "Evaluations to Watch: The National Youth Participation Study: Using Online Surveys to Reach Large Numbers of Youth." (2004). The Evaluation Exchange X(3).
2 Sarkar, Dibya. "New York City holds hearings online." (March 7, 2005). Federal Computer Week.
3 Sarkar, Dibya. "NYC holds school hearings online." (January 31, 2005). Federal Computer Week.