Cybersecurity is top priority for K-12 edtech leaders – eSchool News

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Key points:

The majority of K-12 edtech leaders say they believe AI can benefit education, and roughly one-third have a general AI initiative–but cybersecurity remains at the top of their priority lists, according to the 2024 State of Edtech District Leadership report from CoSN.

The annual survey, now in its eleventh year, gives school district leaders and policymakers a holistic understanding of the K-12 IT landscape.

While edtech leaders can often be siloed within their own district, this year’s report offers a chance to look at best practices in other districts and measure priorities and initiatives as compared to other schools and districts.

CoSN’s edtech leadership report offers valuable insight for superintendents, school boards, and business officers as they outline priorities and budgets to address challenges and priorities outlined in the report–critical information that will also serve as a directional guide to CoSN’s resource and program development.

“The role of edtech leaders is rapidly expanding as technology is permeating every aspect of our education system, necessitating their proactive involvement. Our latest survey underscores the growing complexity of their challenges, from developing Generative AI best practices and cybersecurity measures to addressing the digital equity divide. Since 2013, demands on edtech leaders have surged, yet district resources have not kept pace with these escalating needs,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN.

The survey and report were conducted in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, CDW Education, K12 Insight, Lightspeed Systems and MCH Strategic Data. This year’s top findings include the following:

1. The overwhelming majority of edtech leaders (97 percent) see benefits in how AI can positively impact education and over a third (35 percent) of districts report having a generative AI initiative.

2. Cybersecurity remains the top concern for edtech leaders, with 99 percent of districts taking measures to improve protections. Increasingly, districts are on a path to implementing many cybersecurity best practices.

3. An overwhelming majority (93 percent) of districts are using technology solutions designed to address or improve student well-being.

4. A growing number of districts no longer provide any services to address student home broadband access–31 percent this year compared to 19 percent just two years ago.

5. Single Sign-On (SSO) is the most fully implemented interoperability initiative with 43 percent. Full implementation rates for other interoperability initiatives lag far behind.

6. Cybersecurity ranks number one on edtech leaders’ lists for professional learning, with 85 percent of respondents indicating they were extremely or very interested. Second was IT crisis preparedness with 78 percent, followed by driving and sustaining K-12 innovation with 77 percent.

7. Edtech leaders cite the inability to hire skilled staff as a top challenge, ranked second behind budget constraints.

8. Sixty-four percent of districts report taking measures to increase team diversity, with a quarter actively recruiting. However, only one-third (34 percent) of districts report adding underrepresented populations to their technology department team in the last two years.

“Leveraging and championing technologies in our school systems has never been more important in public education. Everyday terms such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, digital equity and interoperability are top of mind in learning communities throughout our country, which is why it’s not surprising to see some of this year’s key findings focusing on these areas,” said David R. Schuler, Executive Director, AASA. “Once again, it’s an honor to partner with CoSN on this invaluable resource. I congratulate Keith Krueger and his team for administering the survey.”

The report was developed based on a national survey of over 980 edtech leaders across U.S. school systems. According to the results, districts are modernizing their infrastructure; however, more responsibilities such as HVAC, phone systems, and physical security systems come under their purview and run on the school network. Edtech leaders are also challenged by persistent problems such as hurdles to hiring highly-qualified IT talent, issues of student home internet and device access, funding cliffs as pandemic funds expire, and enormous threats of cybersecurity attacks.

“CDW is a proud corporate partner of CoSN and this annual survey to help support our district leaders in solving problems, planning for the future and building capacity in education technology leaders,” said Janice Mertes, State Level Ambassador, CDW Education.

“As the K-12 community tackles critical challenges, including infrastructure security, data privacy, AI adoption and digital equity, the 2024 State of EdTech report again provides an important view of IT leaders’ priorities. Lightspeed Systems is proud to be a longstanding partner of CoSN, working together to understand and address these top issues head-on,” said Brian Thomas, CEO, Lightspeed Systems.

This press release originally appeared online.

Laura Ascione is the Editorial Director at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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