May 14 2020

Cybersecurity Still a Top Priority for Ed Tech Leaders

K–12 IT leaders ranked cybersecurity, data privacy and security, and data-driven instruction as the most important tech initiatives in their district, according to CoSN’s annual survey.

For the third consecutive year, cybersecurity ranked as the number one tech priority for K–12 IT leaders, according to “The State of Ed Tech Leadership in 2020,” a new report from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).

Those surveyed indicated that their districts are “highly aware of increased network attacks in K–12 environments and are increasing efforts to thwart them,” but still generally underestimate the size of those threats, according to the report.

Out of 513 rural, suburban and urban school systems surveyed, 69 percent said they are proactive or very proactive about maintaining network security — an increase from last year’s 52 percent. The majority of respondents also said phishing attacks are the greatest cybersecurity risk, followed by ransomware and distributed denial of service attacks.

Some of the top cybersecurity practices they’ve employed include conducting IT staff training, backing up information and storing it offsite, and encouraging staff to upgrade passwords. However, many districts still don’t require teachers or principals to go through cybersecurity training.

Other key findings include an uptick (74 percent) in the number of IT leaders who oversee educational and administrative technology. Seventy-five percent of IT leaders are consistently involved in making decisions about digital content, and 96 percent consider digital equity a priority.

A new question was added to this year’s survey to assess the impact emerging technologies will have on teaching and learning in the next five years. The majority of respondents cited augmented reality (44 percent) and virtual reality (40 percent) as having the most significant impact.

Respondents also noted they continue to face challenges with budget, professional development, departmental silos and lack of diversity in IT leadership.

“This annual survey of school district IT leaders across the country allows CoSN to gain vital insight into today’s ed tech trends. This new knowledge will enable organizations, companies and policymakers to help educators more effectively implement technology-enriched learning, both during COVID-19 and moving forward,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, in a press release about the report. “While this year’s results point to much-needed progress, additional focus on cybersecurity and improved IT infrastructure is required to truly enhance teaching and learning.”

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