Superintendents Susan Enfield, Matthew Miller and David Schuler speak at CoSN2022.

Apr 12 2022

CoSN2022: Digital Transformation Starts with Teamwork and Forward-Thinking Leaders

Superintendents and K–12 IT leaders share how collaboration helps educational technology to advance in schools.

Intentional implementation of educational technology is a crucial component of the continued forward momentum of K–12 education. However, districts must take the right steps to ensure success.

At this year’s Consortium for School Networking conference, leaders in education shared their experiences and advice for breaking down silos, increasing collaboration and continuing to advance K–12 education.

Their stories and activities engaged an in-person audience, who asked questions and took notes in filled conference rooms on a stormy Tuesday morning.

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Continued Momentum Prevents a Backslide to Antiquated Education

In Monday’s keynote session, leaders discussed how K–12 district staffers — particularly educators — have been stretched during the pandemic by rapid shifts, new technology and changing models of teaching and learning.

Desert Sands Unified School District Chief Innovation and Information Officer Tiffany Norton addressed this pain point in her session, “Leveraging Technology for Student Success.”

“We’ve stretched people to their capacity,” Norton said. “If we let it go, we’re going to have practices that I believe are antiquated. We need to keep that momentum that we have, that blended learning model, and we need to push forward.”

Tiffany Norton at CoSN2022

Tiffany Norton, chief innovation and information officer at Desert Sands Unified School District, speaks at CoSN2022.

She and colleague Mike Kint, Desert Sands USD’s director of professional development, explained how their district worked through pandemic-era challenges. They noted that blended learning and universal design for learning (UDL) resources are more available for educators and school districts than ever and said their district has been working collaboratively to provide the best education for all students.

KEEP READING: Schools ace professional development for tech transformation.

Increased Collaboration Leads to Successful Tech Implementation

Collaboration and unified teams were also topics of discussion in a Tuesday session moderated by Ann McMullan, CoSN’s project director of the EmpowerED Superintendents Initiative.

“Sadly, the silo is pervasive across all of our systems to some degree, and as superintendents, part of our job is to actively work to dismantle that,” said Susan Enfield, superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Washington State.

Enfield was joined by Superintendent Matthew Miller of Lakota Local School District in Ohio and Superintendent David Schuler of High School District 214 in Illinois in the session “Building and Leading a Collaborative Team to Drive Technology Implementations.”

The three discussed how digital transformation begins by breaking down district silos, particularly between the superintendent and the CTO, and — on a larger scale — the curriculum teams and technology teams.

WATCH NOW: IT leaders use instructional backgrounds to implement tech.

They also talked about the importance of having the school board’s support. “Keeping your board engaged in the work and aware of the work is really important,” Enfield said. Beyond that, having a trusted cabinet in place is crucial, Schuler added, so you can schedule regular meetings between your team and the board to build trust and relationships.

At High School District 214, Schuler shows videos of the district’s successes or positive work at the start of board meetings. “That’s been a cool way to get our board to really buy in to what we’re doing and make them feel really good about it,” he said.

Districts Shift Out of Emergency Mode to Plan for the Future

The district leaders in Tuesday’s sessions spoke about planning for the future.

“We have a virtual school that started in July,” Norton said. “We ordered 50 devices for the virtual school.” With 20 students initially enrolled, the team at Desert Sands USD felt confident in its purchase, thinking that extra devices could be kept on hand for the students and help the team continue to learn virtually.

“The virtual school is sitting at about 400 kids right now,” she shared. “It just ballooned.”

Norton also added that the district will continue to use and refine the resources and processes learned as part of the pandemic.

David Schuler
I want to make that shift from people focusing on putting out fires and managing to dreaming and leading for excellence.”

David Schuler Superintendent, High School District 214

Enfield spoke about the challenges of balancing innovation and collaboration with her staff’s ability to participate. “How are we balancing survival with innovation?” she asked. “The need to innovate is greater than ever, but people don’t have the capacity for change.”

Schuler is giving his team a week off in the summer, saying that he is forbidding team members from entering the buildings or answering emails. “That is their week to reflect and get in a different mindset as we look to pivot to next year,” he said. “I want to make that shift from people focusing on putting out fires and managing to dreaming and leading for excellence.”

EdTech is covering CoSN2022, so keep this page bookmarked for our ongoing coverage. Follow @EdTech_K12 on Twitter for live updates and join the conversation using the hashtag #CoSN2022.

Photography by Rebecca Torchia

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