Apr 15 2022

CoSN2022: Conference Attendees Share Highlights from Nashville

The biggest takeaways for IT leaders at the event included lessons on belonging and cybersecurity and the chance to network in person.

After two tumultuous years for K–12 education, conferencegoers were excited for the opportunity to come together in person for the Consortium for School Networking’s annual event.

Superintendents, CTOs and other K–12 IT leaders connected April 11–13 in Nashville, Tenn., to discuss digital innovation through educational technology.

EdTech caught up with attendees to discover what they’ll be taking back to their districts from CoSN2022. Here’s what they had to say.

An Impactful Session on Inclusion Resonated with IT Leaders

For multiple K–12 leaders, the top takeaway was the importance of creating a sense of belonging and inclusion for staff and students.

DIVE DEEPER: Read our CoSN2022 article on inclusion through equitable tech.

Wake County Public School System’s Dawn Castonguay, senior director of technology resource management, and Lisa Belsha, director of digital resources, noted that a session on inclusion drove this point home for many attendees.

“A lot of us have been talking about it, the session where we learned about belonging, and how we take that back and incorporate it in our leadership” Castonguay said.

“It applies not just to students but to staff,” Belsha added. “We all could think of situations where we have fit in, but we didn’t necessarily belong.”

Other attendees felt the impact of the session and the possibilities that creates for education.

“Throughout the conference, I saw how it’s all about inclusivity and reaching out to other people from districts across the county,” Aracely Chavez, Fort Worth Independent School District’s executive director of IT training and compliance, said. “It’s about sharing spaces with all people. It just made me feel like this is where I belong.”

“I think the biggest thing is really to create that sense of belonging — not just for leaders, just for teachers, but a sense of belonging for all,” said Jennifer Lotze, instructional technology coordinator at Hudson School District in Wisconsin. “If we create a place where students can belong — where they see themselves in curriculum, where they see themselves within their teachers — we can break down those silos and break down those barriers that get in their way of education.”

MORE FROM COSN2022: Superintendents discuss breaking down silos for digital transformation.

Tech Experts Sought Out Sessions on K–12 Cybersecurity

CoSN2022 sessions that centered on cybersecurity and data privacy were popular among attendees. With a growing need for cybersecurity measures to protect K–12 networks, IT leaders set out in search of new ideas, answers and to get an understand of where they stand.

“I have really seen that our district is further ahead,” said Rachelle Corry, digital resources coordinator for Deer Park Independent School District in Texas. “I was mainly focusing on data privacy, and I found that we were already doing some of the things that a lot of these districts haven’t gotten to.”

“I think there was a heavy focus on cybersecurity,” said Jack Kelanic, CTO for Dallas Independent School District. “It’s top of mind for all of us in education right now, so it was really good to hear from those thought leaders and people sharing their experiences as they go through some of those challenges together.”

LEARN MORE: Get tips from this CoSN2022 session on cybersecurity insurance risk assessments.

CoSN Created an Opportunity for Networking and Making Connections

Togetherness was a key part of the conference. For many in attendance, the biggest takeaway was simply an appreciation for the return to in-person events.

“All of the sessions I attended were great, but I think it’s the opportunity to network with people and bounce around ideas,” said Robin Gunter, executive director of instructional technology at Richardson Independent School District in Texas. “You often don’t get that chance to just sit and talk and connect and come up with good ideas.”

“There were a lot of good leaders here from different states, and it’s good to collaborate,” added Matthew Yeager, assistant superintendent of technology at Garland Independent School District in Texas.

RELIVE COSN2022: Leaders spoke on equity through technology in a keynote session.

From first-time attendees to longtime CoSN veterans, those who were able to travel to Nashville enjoyed networking and discovering new perspectives.

“This is my first time at CoSN, and it is really a great opportunity to not just see it from my instructional lens but to see what all those who work in the infrastructure side do,” said Dominic Caguioa, administrative coordinator of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Instructional Technology Initiative. “The intersection of the technical and instructional sides, it makes it easy to collaborate once I go back to the district.”

“A couple of us formed our state chapter about eight years ago, and we always wonder how we’re doing,” said Lee Despres, director of technology for School Administrative Unit 24 in New Hampshire. “We saw some larger chapters that are a little bit more mature, and they’re doing amazing things, and we want to aspire to that.”

“At this conference, you really get a sense of community and belonging,” said William Stein, director of information systems at the Metropolitan School District of Mt. Vernon in Indiana. “For me, the biggest takeaway is the networking, the friends I’ve made and getting together with people who are from all over the world. We’re all dealing with the same kinds of things. It just is a good place to come and be with your people.”

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What’s in Store for CoSN2023?

CoSN CEO Keith Krueger was enthusiastic about the success of the organization’s first hybrid event. He shared that planning is already underway for next year’s conference.

“Next March, we’ll be in Austin,” Krueger shared. “We go from weird city to weird city.”

If you missed any of this year’s coverage, be sure to check out our articles on CoSN2022 here and visit @EdTech_K12 on Twitter to relive all the great #CoSN2022 highlights.

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