The more things change, the more they stay the same — unless you work in education and technology.
As the Consortium for School Networking’s second annual IT Leadership Survey suggests, technology leaders from schools and districts around the country are still contending with many of the same challenges and priorities they faced in 2013. But following several years of budget and staffing cuts and IT improvements delays, about a third of them will have more money to invest in these efforts in 2014.
That revelation is one of many findings previewed for attendees of last week’s CoSN 2014 conference in Washington, D.C.
Conducted in partnership with MDR earlier this year, the CoSN Annual K–12 Leadership Survey asked thousands of IT leaders to weigh in on how they’re leveraging technology to achieve engaging learning environments, how this changes over time and how the choices made today will shape the future educational technology landscape. The responses of participants from 45 states — representing rural, urban and suburban districts of all sizes — give industry followers a helpful glimpse of the trends, challenges and priorities that will impact how technology staff do their jobs and inform CoSN’s efforts to give members meaningful and relevant tools and resources.
“What goes into being a technology leader for schools?” CoSN Senior Consultant Denise Atkinson-Shorey asked during a Friday morning session dedicated to the survey findings. “You actually have two roles. First, you have to deal with the infrastructure and enterprise issues that make it possible to run [an organization]. But in education, you’re also teaching with technology and teaching technology.”
Among the survey’s key findings:
Challenges: Respondents say dealing with the changing culture of teaching and learning, budget constraints and lack of resources, and breaking down district silos are the three biggest challenges they face. Notably, “the challenges haven’t changed year over year,” Atkinson-Shorey said. “But their [order of importance] did.”
Priorities: The three most pressing IT projects or priorities for IT leaders in 2014 are online assessment readiness, mobile learning and wireless access. Asked to what extent their districts would be ready if Common Core online assessments were implemented tomorrow, 17.6 percent of respondents said they are fully prepared and 29.8 percent said they are “almost ready.” Equally significant: 11.2 percent said they have “no resources” available to facilitate their preparation efforts.
Budget: As noted, 34 percent of survey respondents are enjoying budget increases this year. But nearly half (47 percent) indicated that their budgets are inadequate to support existing equipment, meet board expectations or implement new classroom technologies. Two-thirds (68 percent) of them will delay or defer maintenance and upgrade investments until funding again becomes available.
Leadership Gap: Fully half of survey respondents reported that they plan to retire sometime in the next decade. “Once this group goes away, it will be difficult to replace them,” Atkinson-Shorey said.
Full survey results will be released in early April, but an Executive Summary of key findings can be downloaded now at cosn.org/ITsurvey2014.
For more coverage from CoSN's annual conference, check out our CoSN 2014 conference hub.