Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Keeps School CTOs Up At Night?

Notes from SxSWedu 2014 Session

Title: What Keeps School CTOs Up At Night

·       Sheryl Abshire, CTO, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, Lake Charles, LA
·       Donna Williamson, Technology Director, Mountain Brook City Board of Education,  Birmingham, AL
·        Michael Jamerson, Director of Technology, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp, Columbus, IN
·         Keith Kreuger, CEO, Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)

Hear from leading school district CIO/CTOs about the key issues that are shaping the use of technology in the classroom. Learn about key trends—allowing students to bring their own devices to preparing for online tests to bridging learning inside the classroom to the home, and more—that are driving the need for broadband and wireless in education. The session will be of interest to practitioners and policy makers, as well as entrepreneurs developing innovative solutions for pressing needs.
CTO’s top three priorities include:
·         Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
·         Assessment Readiness
·         Broadband Access

After listening to the panelists, it was clear that all worry about internet access. CoSN reported that a majority of school aren’t network ready and that 99% of districts will need additional internet bandwidth and connectivity in the next 3 months. Jamerson stated, "It costs about $2000 per classroom to provide internet access capacity."

In addition, access outside of school is a concern. The panelists reported that less than 50% of families have high speed internet access at home.

I think Donna Williamson said it best when she stated that what keeps her up at night is “The rate in which everything is changing and the ability to keep up with it.” She mentioned everything from data security, cyberbullying, online curriculum to internet access. In regards to data security, developing policies and procedures and communicating those to parents is a challenge.  Protecting student data starts with educating teachers on how to protect data the right way. It doesn't mean limiting access.

How can a CTO balance all the resources while keeping the data secure?

Abshire stated, “Our role (as a CTO) is to say yes and figure out how we can do it. It’s better to say yes and, rather than yes but.”

Keith Kreuger, CEO of CoSN, gave an overview of items to be on the lookout for, which include:
·         Cloud Computing
·         Mobile Learning
·         Open Content
·         Learning Analytics
·         3D Printing

COSN has created a new resource that defines the specifications for a district network that can keep up with current and future instructional and learning requirements. The Smart Education Networks by Design (SEND) Guidelines and Checklist are free for download and are located at http://www.cosn.org/focus-areas/it-management/send-smart-education-networks-design. For example, the guidelines recommend four major steps when planning a personalized learning environment, a 1-1 computing environment or a bring-your-own-device program:
1.    Build a scalable network.
2.    Work with the curriculum team to take advantage of curriculum that can be used on computing devices.
3.    Train teachers and administrators at least six months before giving students devices.
4.    Talk with parents, the school board, local government agencies, businesses and elected officials who could assist schools.

In addition, CoSN is creating a Becoming Assessment Ready: Raising the Bar toolkit, which contains steps that schools and districts can take to ensure that their IT is ready to handle online assessments. The toolkit is located online at http://www.cosn.org/focus-areas/it-management/becoming-assessment-ready.


On the horizon is a toolkit about privacy, especially in the cloud computing environment. Data offers the potential to personalize learning, inform instruction and offer real-time feedback to students and teachers, but to reach that potential, educators must understand the legal, as well as the expectations of parents and the community that data is protected from inappropriate usage. 

Ultimately, it is clear that as more computing devices land on campuses, CTOs are trying to keep their networks up to speed so they can handle the increased load.

If you are a technology leader, what keeps you up at night?


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