Utah’s Historic Leadership in School Data
Knoxville, Tennessee (March 15, 2022) - Back in 2015, key leaders in the state of Utah had a novel idea. They asked, “What if we took an inventory of digital teaching and learning resources in every single public school in the state? What if we went to the source and asked schools directly what they were lacking, and in what ways they felt supported? And what if that data was used to inform state funding initiatives to enhance digital teaching and learning?”
The quest for better information on the resources available in its schools would go on to influence seven years and counting of robust data collection, making Utah a national leader in school technology resources and planning.
In 2015, the state legislature charged the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) with planning the first iteration of what would become the Utah School Technology Inventory. Connected Nation was quickly brought in to conduct this inventory, and over a very short 14-week window, successfully gathered data from every public school in Utah. With the data, the legislature developed a grant funding mechanism for schools to enhance their resources for teachers and students.
In 2017, UETN determined that while the data collected at that snapshot in time was vitally important, it would be even more useful if data could be gathered again and again to create longitudinal studies showing the impact of increased funding, the shifting of priorities, and any other internal or external factors that would affect the digital learning environment for students. As a result, a biennial cadence was set for future inventories.
In 2020, UETN and CN released the inventory’s third iteration, and less than two months later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Suddenly, the state of Utah had another use for the data — to understand what specific resources existed for students and teachers to use for pandemic learning. With a wealth of understanding on where tools and resources were and were not, Utah’s education community pivoted quickly, effectively, and efficiently to an unprecedented model of learning, while many other states struggled to roll out their own home-based learning models.
Last month, CN presented UETN with its fourth inventory, which showed the impacts of COVID-era strategies on resources. The data showed that schools had purchased more Chromebooks, students were taking devices home for learning at unprecedented levels, and technology staffing was on the rise to support the new learning models.
Nationally, as learning environments continue to morph and change to adapt to the ways students learn, Utah remains one step ahead with a clear picture of what it can offer to its kids for growth in learning. The data will continue to tell the story of external factors’ impacts, methods that worked and didn’t work, and ultimately a pathway to the best education opportunities possible for students.
If you would like more information on how you can inventory your own state’s digital teaching and learning resources, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Lindsay Conrad is the Connected Nation Director of Program Development. Lindsay ensures that all Connected Nation programs are effectively executed. She serves internal and external stakeholders and leads program initiatives to support CN's mission and goals.