Mar 13 2018

CoSN 2018: Broadband and Cybersecurity Are Top IT Concerns

Survey highlights IT leaders’ priorities for the coming year.

Cybersecurity and broadband/network capacity are tied for the top priorities for IT leaders in 2018, while budget constraints were marked as one of the most pressing challenges for a fourth straight year. Those were among the 10 key findings highlighted in the Consortium for School Networking’s fourth K–12 IT Leadership Survey Report, which was released on Monday in conjunction with the opening of CoSN’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The survey also highlighted the different paths men and women take to IT leadership.

More than half of women come to their IT role with an academic background in education and instruction, compared with a third of men, who come from a background in technology,” says Steve Langford, CoSN Board member and CIO of Beaverton School District in Oregon.

Langford read the top results of the survey during Monday’s opening plenary session.

IT Leaders Focus on Data-Driven Decisions

In the survey, nearly 500 IT leaders offer information about their challenges and priorities, salaries and budgets. To assess those filling current IT leadership roles, the survey also delved into the respondents’ professional backgrounds, education and years of experience.

This year’s survey found that IT leaders are taking a bigger role in purchasing decisions, with 86 percent of respondents reporting that they have at least moderate involvement in their district’s decisions to buy digital content, compared with 75 percent who answered yes to that question last year.

Data-driven instruction and decision-making broke into the top three this year, joining broadband and network security, which jumped one place to the top spot, and cybersecurity, which jumped two spots to become No. 1.

“All three of these priorities are connected and make it clear that data is a district priority — accessing, managing, leveraging and keeping it secure,” the report states.

Funding Program Assist with Budget Woes

For the first time, the report asked survey respondents to share their district-level technology budget information.

“For a large majority of respondents (70%), their district’s IT budget enables them to ‘meet the overall expectation of the school board/district leaders.’ However, about half (53%) indicated that their budget does not ‘allocate enough financial resources to hire the personnel needed to support the tech assets that have already been purchased,’” the report states.

IT leaders say they use funds from the E-rate program and delay replacement or defer maintenance/upgrade contracts as a strategy to overcome budget issues. Others plan to use grants or reduce their technology purchases.

Here are the top 10 key findings from the report:

  1. Cybersecurity and broadband/network capacity tie as the top priorities for IT leaders.

  2. Budget constraints are ranked as the top challenge for the fourth straight year.

  3. Integrating technology into the classroom continues to be the most understaffed IT function.

  4. Transition from print to digital is taking longer than projected.

  5. Twice as many districts that are seeking to create a one-to-one computing environment are providing the device versus using a BYOD strategy.

  6. IT leaders are increasingly involved in digital content purchasing decisions. For 28 percent of districts, digital content cannot be purchased without their approval.

  7. IT leaders are outsourcing less than they used to.

  8. Men and women tend to take different paths to IT leadership. More than half of women come to their role with an academic background in education and instruction, compared with just a third of men, who primarily come from a technical background.

  9. Significant progress has been made in the transition to digital assessments, with 80 percent ready or almost ready to conduct Common Core or statewide high-stakes online assessments.

  10. IT Leaders are predominately white (90 percent). This is the same percentage as prior years and shows no progress toward diversifying the field to include more district IT leaders of color.

Catch all of our coverage of CoSN 2018 by bookmarking EdTech’s conference landing page.

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