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“People at work are thirsting for context, yearning to know that what they do contributes to the larger whole.”
I’m certain that when Daniel Pink wrote this, he wasn’t thinking specifically of advocacy. Yet this quote helps answer the question as to why one would become an advocate? It could be for a cause that has inspired them. It could stem from a deeply held belief. It could be out of frustration. It could simply be because someone asked them to lend their voice.
Ultimately, it points back to thirsting and yearning to contribute to the greater good or larger whole.
Educators want to support students, maintain expectations, promote learning and plead the case for allocating the resources necessary to fulfill the potential of a child’s future, our future, humankind’s future. That’s why educators become advocates.
Often, educators are simply following their hearts, trusting their gut instincts or responding to their intuition. The stories that portray these situations are always compelling. However, educators in the age of accountability need data to support their feelings and instincts, and convince others that they need to act.
Compiling that data may be a daunting task, one they may not have the time or skill set to accomplish. So where can that kind of supporting data be found?
One long-standing and credible data source for educational leaders is the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning.
Over 5 million students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members from over 30,000 schools have made Speak Up the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, schools of the future, science and math instruction, professional development and career exploration. It’s free to all participants and national-level reports inform policymakers at all levels.
Last year, the data collected confirmed some hunches educators had about digital citizenship and reminded us that there’s still work to be done. The 2017 survey findings showed that that nationally, 35 percent of students in grades 6-8 and 44 percent of students in grades 9-12 identified as self-taught when it comes to digital citizenship. Having this data will impact the advocacy efforts of teachers and parents to become more aware, active and influential in helping students mature as digital citizens.
Registering your school and participating in the upcoming Speak Up survey gives your team local and state-level data to enhance your advocacy efforts and bring context to the stories you tell.
Valuable information is also available from EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit focused on upgrading internet access at every school in the U.S. EducationSuperHighway’s reports and tools provide state and local information on bandwidth, connectivity and digital inequity in the nation’s schools.
Advocates must have stories to share that will help us understand the data that confronts us. The numbers catch people’s attention and, more often than not, raise questions.
When advocates explain why, the stories of impact help the numbers hold meaning, solutions become visible and tasks become more tangible. The responses to the stories begins to quench the thirst of those seeking contexts and become a means to contribute to making good things happen for those who cannot do so on their own.
This is why we advocate.
So gather your facts, compose your stories and speak up for what you know to be good and right and true.
Rod Carnill is supervisor of instructional technology coaches at Frederick County Public Schools in Virginia and an adjunct professor at Shenandoah University. He is also advocacy chair for the Virginia Society for Technology in Education.