A few themes stood out at CoSN 2019–artificial intelligence, coding, and preparing students for 2030 are three that immediately come to mind. But as I attended more sessions, smaller–yet equally cool–bits of information jumped out at me.
I love attending conference sessions because I get to listen to educators and edtech leaders talk about what’s most important when it comes to helping students succeed and feel proud of their accomplishments.
Here are just a few of the new things I learned, or things that aren’t often talked about, at CoSN 2019:
1. Equity doesn’t only apply to disparities in income. Socioeconomic status and income levels seem to be the most references aspects of equity, but during the conference I realized equity is a much bigger umbrella, and its other aspects aren’t always discussed as widely as income disparities. Special education students and English language learners are often left on the other side of equity gaps.
Read more: 10 conversations about digital equity
In Vancouver (WA) Public Schools (VPS), administrators and tech leaders are focusing on equity across the board. For instance, when students in special education classes are issued iPads, putting those iPads in different cases signifies that those students are somehow “different,” so the district hands out iPads in the same cases whenever possible.
At VPS, equity begins with #ThatKid, explained Mark Ray, the district’s director of innovation and library services. “We don’t think of students as English language learners; we think of them as English language learners with specific needs. Students have very different experiences in their lives, and very specific needs, yet we group them all together.”
2. LTE and school bus networks offer unexpected benefits for administrators, students, and parents. Sure, homework and internet access are often the primary goals, especially for students who don’t have internet or devices at home. But there are unintended perks and safety benefits to equipping buses with video-monitoring, GPS, and wi-fi, said Michael Flood, Kajeet CEO, and Tom Ryan, chief information and strategy officer at Santa Fe (NM) Public Schools.
Read more: 6 ways school bus wi-fi could benefit your district
If a school or district building experiences a power outage, a wi-fi bus can park out front and offer some help as connectivity is restored. What about students who forget to get off the bus? Video monitoring can help with logistics there, and just might help parents avoid panicking.
It happens more than you might think. My first-grade son fell asleep on the very short ride home from school; had my daughter not woken him up, he would have stayed on the bus. In another, more serious instance, a bus driver had a medical emergency and the bus went off the road. GPS could have helped locate the bus had it gone seriously off-route.
3. While CTOs are technology leaders in districts, superintendents strive to recognize all levels of technology leadership, from teachers all the way down to students. “We’re trying to empower people throughout our district to see themselves as technology leaders,” said Dr. Doug Brubaker, superintendent of Fort Smith (AR) School District.
Tech leadership isn’t limited to those with big titles, either. “Your tech leaders should be everyone, depending on the issue or topic,” said Dr. David Schuler, Township (IL) High School District 214’s superintendent and the 2018 Illinois Superintendent of the Year. “Given the situation, everybody has the opportunity to be a technology leader in our district.”
Some districts create programs that recognize tech leadership at all levels, and others have help desk programs that teach students to become tech leaders as they cultivate real-world problem solving skills.