School technology managers from Seattle to Sarasota gathered in Austin, Texas, March 30 to 31 to broaden their professional development and network with their peers. The occasion was the first-ever School Technology Leadership Conference hosted by eSchool News.

Sixteen sessions within two tracks—Leadership & Vision and Development & Technical Integration—offered conference-goers the chance to learn about a wide range of subjects, from survival strategies for K-12 buyers, to proven models for technology integration, to technology’s impact on education ethics and school law.

Keynote speaker Jonathan Carson, president and cofounder of FamilyEducation Network, started the conference with a list of 10 key trends that will affect schools and families in the new century. Among the trends that educators should prepare for, according to Carson:

• The increasing importance of forging a strong home-school connection. In the struggle for better accountability, schools can’t pull the entire weight by themselves, Carson said. But new web-based tools are making it easier than ever for parents to track their children’s performance. This means that parents can intervene and curb bad behavior before report cards come out and it’s too late. “The internet is [also] about organizing,” Carson said. “Think in terms of mobilizing parent votes on referendums and school bond issues.” When developing a school web site, forget that mission statement—instead, focus on providing timely information.

• The increasing spread and acceptance of standardized testing. “The genie is out of the bottle and there’s no going back,” Carson said. Educators should shift their focus onto creating tools to help students prepare for high-stakes testing, and they should ask themselves how technology and the internet can be used to create these tools.

• The importance of public/private partnerships. Employers need an educated and technologically savvy work force. The business community, therefore, has a stake in how schools perform—and schools should capitalize on this trend. “Go to the biggest companies in your community and seek their technical expertise,” Carson advised. But be careful, he added. To work, it’s got to be a partnership in which both sides make investments and reap returns.

• The rise of “cognitive overload.” According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the amount of information we’re bombarded with on a daily basis is doubling every two years. What’s worse, this overload is leading to shorter attention spans, Carson said. To combat this trend, educators should make school web sites user-friendly and easy to navigate; cut down on superfluous communication; develop better management skills to handle the flow of information; tailor instruction to a variety of individual learning styles; and build more time into the day for reading and reflection.

Session highlights

In a session titled “Emerging School Technologies: What You Need to Know,” John Bodine, director of education for Marconi Communications, highlighted some of the technologies that school leaders should be aware of as they build their network infrastructures.

Other highlights included “New Models for Districtwide Technology Planning and Software Management,” presented by Larry Anderson, professor of education at Mississippi State University and director of the National Center for Technology Planning; and “Making the Web an Integral Part of Your School Communications Program,” presented by eSchool News columnist Nora Carr and Elliott Levine, director of communications for Lawrence (N.Y.) Public Schools.

School Technology Leadership Conference was cosponsored by Symbol Technologies, with additional support from 3M,, Maxspeed, SchoolPeople, and The next School Technology Leadership Conference will be held Aug. 10 to 11 at the Sheraton Harbor Island Resort in San Diego.

FamilyEducation Network

Marconi Communications

National Center for Technology Planning

Lawrence Public Schools