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Perspectives on the 4th Annual CoSN K–12 IT Leadership Survey Report

Perspectives on the 4th Annual CoSN K–12 IT Leadership Survey Report

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), in partnership with MDR, released its 4th Annual K–12 IT Leadership Survey Report during its annual conference on April 4. The survey includes responses from more than 500 K–12 school information technology (IT) leaders from 47 states across the country. In addition to providing a demographic profile of the survey respondents, the report identifies the priorities and needs confronting schools as they continue on their digital transformation journeys to implement connected education.

Beyond the IT respondent demographic profiles, the results of the questions pertaining to policy and practice are most interesting. Bumping the issue of assessment readiness as the top priority is broadband and network capacity. The next two top priorities identified by K–12 IT leaders were wireless access and mobile learning. Click here to see the full CoSN report.

As the report indicates, the top three priorities for school districts as they move to implement connected education and mobile learning are certainly intertwined. In serving school districts in 32 states across the country, Education Networks of America (ENA) staff has championed to policymakers and education leaders the need to grow bandwidth capacity to close a widening digital divide within states and accommodate the digital transformation happening in many classrooms. For teachers and students, the list of activities and uses reliant on broadband Internet service has expanded greatly in just a few years and will continue to escalate the need for greater bandwidth capacity to support 21st century teaching and learning. The most common uses that consume bandwidth include one-to-one (1:1) device initiatives, online testing, digital textbooks, digital curriculum and content, learning management and/or student information systems, online teacher evaluation systems and professional development, and cloud data storage.

Regarding the use of digital textbooks and contents, nearly 90 percent of the survey respondents indicated that they expect their instructional materials to be at least 50 percent digital within three years.

Another high priority area that is growing in importance as reflected in the survey report is privacy and security of student data. A total of 64 percent of survey respondents rated privacy and security as a “somewhat” or “much more important” issue than last year. Without sufficient attention paid to network security, the risks of breaches to student data and violations of privacy become greater.

There is little to no dispute that providing a safe environment for students, teachers, and administrators is essential for facilitating effective teaching and learning. This has added meaning in today’s hyperconnected world where school district networks—which have become the foundational core for using and sharing instructional resources, information, data, and business applications—pose certain risks. With increasing threats to network security and the possibility of data breaches, it is imperative that school districts implement stringent security practices to protect their students, staff, and networks from virtual intruders, just as they already do within the brick and mortar of school buildings to protect against physical intruders.

To support the optimization of network security in the K–12 education community, ENA recently issued a new white paper, Education Network Security in a Hyperconnected World, and companion network security checklist that provide insight into potential network security threats impacting school districts. Given the results of CoSN’s 2016 survey, the release of this white paper is timely, as it is intended to inform, equip, and provide actionable direction for school districts to secure their networks. The full white paper is available online at https://www.ena.com/network-security/.

The CoSN report shares results on other priority and emerging issues and is a quick read for K–12 IT leaders and stakeholders to gauge where their efforts and perspectives stand in comparison to their peers.

ENA stands ready to assist school IT leaders and educators as they face these priorities. ENA’s managed Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) broadband, Wi-Fi/LAN, voice, and video solutions are turnkey, best-of-class services required by schools and libraries to drive student achievement, operational efficiencies, and future capabilities. ENA exclusively serves schools and libraries in 32 states, offering unmatched support and technical expertise for each of our solutions.

Terry Spradlin is ENA's director of community & government relations in Indiana.
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