Oct 20, 2022 • 20M

Give the Districts What They Want

Julia Fallon, Executive Director of The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), breaks down the top priorities of education leaders post-pandemic.

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Hard data on district needs are still hard to find even now that most schools are “back to normal.” Many questions remain about where school leaders stand when it comes to the issues that came to the forefront in the past two years including cybersecurity threats, digital equity, and the effectiveness of hybrid learning.

In a recent conversation with Julia Fallon, executive director of SEDTA, I was able to glean some answers. The 2022 State EdTech Trends Report, released by the SEDTA in collaboration with Whiteboard Advisors, draws on the results of the organization’s flagship annual State EdTech Trends Survey of edtech directors, state superintendents, chiefs of staff, and other senior state officials. The report supplements the survey findings with interviews of leaders in a number of states to spotlight their efforts to support digital learning.

It’s best to hear the whole conversation by clicking above but below are some highlights:

On the purpose behind the survey:

We wanted to identify what the priorities were on edtech and education in general. This is our first year (doing the survey). We plan on at least another two years because it will help states think about how they can optimize the investments that were made, especially in the edtech space, during the pandemic. There's lots of funding that comes through regular federal channels and state channels and we wanted to get take a pulse in that space. So we were excited. We got a really great response.

On this key finding from the report—

  • Seventy percent of respondents reported that the State Education Agency or at least one district in the state was the victim of a cyber attack. However, 57% of respondents report that their states provide very little funding for school cybersecurity efforts.:

I think during the pandemic we found out how vulnerable school districts really were to cyber security. One, because not everybody's in the same space, right? They're all over the place. You're connecting from offsite, which can create extra opportunities. Technology was being deployed without probably going through normal vetting. Hopefully districts have a vetting process, but it might have been shortened in order to be able to serve students and educators during the pandemic…We have a cybersecurity and data collaborative, which is currently being funded by the Gates Foundation, to help our state leaders become more aware of what's in the space in terms of policy, to help them advocate for better policy, but also to identify what states could do to actually mitigate some of the cybersecurity risks wholesale.

On pandemic silver linings:

In some ways the pandemic allowed states to be a little bit more responsive because maybe there weren't requirements that they had to completely follow, right? There were still requirements, but maybe they were streamlined. Now, they can look back and say, “Well, is that the best way we could have done that? Is that the way we're still going to keep it? Because maybe we don't. Maybe there's a better way to do this.”

Some more highlights from the report:

  • Survey respondents emphasized the need for greater focus on the effective use of technology. More than half report that schools have “a lot of edtech programs or products, but we don’t always use them effectively,” while only 8 states report collecting data on edtech use and efficacy.

  • States vary greatly in how they are organized to support edtech, with only 55% of states reporting that they have a dedicated office for educational technology.  Although billions of dollars are spent annually on edtech – an investment that increased significantly during the pandemic – many states still lack a dedicated edtech office. The names of these offices, their roles and functions, and positions within state education agency organizational structures vary greatly. 

  • States can more intentionally connect educational priorities and technological priorities – and support the connection with investment. Only 48% of respondents agree that their State Educational Agency (SEA) have explicit conversations about the role of technology in supporting state priorities, while only 41% say that the people working on edtech at the state level are regularly included in broader planning and strategic conversations around technology.

  • Many states report a disparity between edtech priorities and their activities. For instance, although cybersecurity and privacy were high technological priorities for states, only 6% of respondents said their state provides ample funding for cybersecurity, 37% said the state provides cybersecurity tools to Local Education Agencies, and 57% said their state provides very little or a small amount of funding for cybersecurity.

To read the whole report click here: 2022 State EdTech Trends survey and report