CoSN CTO Forum at ISTE 2018

On Tuesday, June 26th at ISTE 2018, CoSN held one of its two yearly CTO Forums. The focus, “Taking Action: Closing The Digital Divide,” brought CTOs and CIOs from around the world to discuss their solutions and struggles on the topic of digital equity. Richard Culatta, ISTE chief executive officer, said that there were more than 1,000 CTOs and CIOs in attendance at this year’s conference. What better location for this important discussion?

The forum was moderated by Keith Krueger, CoSN CEO, along with a panel of educational leaders that have found real solutions to this digital divide. These educational leaders included Diane Doersch, CTO of Green Bay Area (WI) Public School District, Marlo Gaddis, interim CTO, Wake County (NC) Public School System, Andrew Moore, CIO of Boulder Valley (CO) School District, and Scott Smith, assistant superintendent, Mooresville (NC) Graded School District.

As educational leaders, we struggle with connecting with our colleagues and this roundtable-style forum was the perfect venue for deep discussions around the topic of digital equity.

Earlier in the week, ISTE revealed the long-awaited revision of its 2009 ISTE Standards for Administrators. Because “administrator” was not transferable in other countries, the standards were changed to education leaders to reflect the changing roles we all play in this technology-rich educational environment.


This CTO forum focused on Standard 1 Equity and Citizenship Advocate, and the discussions at the tables focused on the fact that access is the crucial component. Access is not just about ensuring that students have access to devices; education leaders are putting their priorities on student access to resources, supports, content, and curriculum inclusion. Also, they are taking a hard look at teacher instructional expertise and evaluating the digital equity that can look different in every classroom.

Many of the education leaders in the room could relate to how our slow rollout plans for our 1:1 programs quickly turned into rapid rollout plans. We were faced with classrooms and students with the technology tools but not the educational tools necessary to incorporate into classroom practice.

So how do we support and develop programming that ensures that we have skilled teachers in classroom who use technology actively in classrooms? Dr. K. May-Vollmar summarized it best when she said, “No longer will teachers be trained in technology separate from curriculum training. Curriculum experts, tech experts, and differentiation experts work in teams to train site-level coaches across the district.” This change in mindset happens when school districts give their educators voice and choice in the delivery method and focus when it comes to their own professional development.

Whether or not a school district has a high free and reduced lunch student population, access to out-of-school connectivity is a challenge for all CTOs and CIOs. Online learning is no longer an option for school districts when it comes to ensuring that our students collaborate, think critically, and be creative. Devices in students’ hands does not mean access to technology is in student’s hands. Solutions to out-of-school connectivity for students ranged from mobile hotspots to wifi on buses to districts building their own LTE networks. As connectivity is not a school issue but a community issue, many districts are partnering with local business and universities for funding and support.

Embedded and systemwide digital citizenship curriculum is a top priority for districts. Identifying biases and incorporating social and emotional learning experiences are the first steps to ensuring positive social change. Using web resources such as Interland by Google and Common Sense Media, school districts are developing sustainable programming to ensure that students have the skills to evaluate information that they read, see, and hear. Modeling digital responsibility by adopting responsible use policies, these education leaders are driving positive school culture.

The last strand for the ISTE Standard One for Education Leaders focuses on the safe, ethical, and legal use of technology. Kyle Hamstra stated it best when he quoted Shaelyn Farnsworth from her ISTE Ignite session: “Censorship is not the answer—empowerment is!”

5 educators share their #ISTE18 experiences

Training our educators on the implications of COPPA, FERPA, and CIPA ensures that school districts are guaranteeing student safety and privacy. One of the concerns of education leaders is the easy access to third-party apps that can potential cause students harm. Many of the school districts represented at this forum are taking measures to vent and approve educational apps. Involving parents, teachers, students, and building administrators are key to ensuring appropriate use of digital materials.

Thank you CoSN and ISTE for providing this collaborative experience as we bring the resources and connections gathered during this invaluable CTO Forum back to our school districts.

Eileen Belastock

About the Author:

Eileen Belastock is director of technology for Mount Greylock Regional School District in Williamstown, Mass., and a board member of MassCUE, an ISTE Affiliate.

Dr. Cathy Collins has worked as a library media specialist for 15+ years. Currently, she is a library media specialist and China exchange coordinator for Sharon (MA) Public Schools. She has served on MassCUE’s Board as PD Chair since 2015. She received a “Teachers for Global Classrooms” fellowship from the U.S. State Dept. in 2014 and is the recipient of AASL’s Intellectual Freedom Award (2014). She was named an MSLA “Super Librarian” in 2015, and also received the HNA/Primary Source “Teacher of the Year” award in 2015. She joined ISTE’s PLN STEM Leadership Team in 2017.

Rayna Freedman is a fifth-grade teacher at the Jordan/Jackson Elementary School in Mansfield, Mass. She has taught grades 3-5 and is an ITS. She is a member of the MassCUE Board of Directors and has been presenting at the annual conference since 2010. She is a BrainPOP certified educator, Flipgrid Ambassador, Fablevision Ambassador, and advocate for teaching digital citizenship in the classroom. She serves on the DESE Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards Panel.

Kelly Healey is an education consultant assisting in the process of modernizing education, increasing student achievement, and moving schools forward. Throughout her career, she served as a K-12 classroom teacher, dean of students, district ESL specialist, and operated in multiple capacities as an education consultant.

Kimberly Zajac is a speech/language pathologist in Norton (MA) Public Schools. She is a board member of MassCUE and serves as co-leader of the MassCUE SLP and Special Educator Special Interest Group.