Bill Fritz, CoSN Ohio Chapter President and Executive Director of Learn 21 along with Char Shryock, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Bay Village City Schools share their insights on how the Ohio TLE Cohort was formed and the ways the group is working together as members prepare to earn the Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal.

How did this group of very different school districts from across the State of Ohio first come together to form a TLE cohort?  Tell us a little bit about your membership.

Bill Fritz included an informal session for anyone interested in finding out more information about TLE at the 2017 Ohio Learn21 Technology Conference.  As the group went around the table and introduced themselves, it became clear that each of us had arrived at the TLE discussion from very different paths.  Although we all served in different education leadership roles, and came from a range of district sizes and locations, we all shared a common interest in learning more about a systematic way to improve student and district data security and privacy.   

How you are leveraging the group’s knowledge and resources to help each other?  What role has CoSN played in providing leadership to this cohort?

Not only is there strength in numbers, but in the case of our TLE cohort, there is a lot of combined knowledge and experience that we have been able to tap into as we work toward earning TLE seals.  Each member of the cohort has some experience as a technology educator, and also as a district or building technology coordinator.  This has helped us to look at the TLE requirements through a policy lens and a classroom lens. We all started the TLE work at the same entry point. Sharing our existing district policies and processes with each other was a useful way to see different perspectives or validate our own district practices.

Bill’s connection to CoSN has been key to our initial success. The work with Learn21 Ohio CoSN chapter has been essential to developing a network of ed tech leaders sharing challenges and working toward a common goal. We see an opportunity through the Ohio CoSN chapter to expand our work and support TLE across Ohio.

What would you say are the greatest benefits of being in a cohort? What are some of the biggest challenges?

Working through the components of the TLE can be daunting. It has been so helpful to have others along on the journey. I think all of us have an open-source mindset when it comes to sharing resources, tools and ideas.  Another benefit is that we can hold each other accountable to the work. The challenge has been to find common time for collaborating and sharing.  This is where technology has really helped! There is some benefit to having a pretty tech savvy group doing this work together!

How is the group staying organized, engaged, and focused?  Can you share with us what a typical meeting looks like?

On our first call, we worked on a Logic Model as a way to identify what our initial work would look like.  This gave us a more specific focus beyond “let’s work on the TLE”.   As the Cohort lead, Char created a Google Folder system to organize our district work, CoSN resources, and TLE resources.  All of the cohort members have access to all of the folders.  We also use a Google Doc agenda/minutes so that all members of the cohort can contribute topics for discussions or requests for ideas/information prior to our monthly call.  We started with a conference call, but have found that Zoom Meeting works well, allowing cohort members to join by phone or by computer and share screens.  Having a live agenda is helpful because as members share ideas or resources they can be added in real time, or hyperlinked for future reference.

As the cohort is working through the TLE process, what has been some of the biggest insights gleamed?  What have been the biggest struggles/obstacles that the schools are encountering?

I think one of the significant insights was the realization that District Policies were outdated or not specific enough.  Linnette Attai’s statement that by checking the “agree to terms and conditions” box on any website when you create accounts is really signing a contract made an impact when talking with teachers about shifting culture around signing up for web-based resources or apps. It opened up conversations around who is allowed or authorized to sign a contract for the district. Our TLE cohort also has shared examples of how we have begun to negotiate terms of use with vendors.

“You don’t know what you don’t know” sums up the biggest challenge of going through the TLE process. The more we have dug into district policies and practices, the more questions we are asking and the more pieces we see need to be put in place or revised.

Having the cohort, being connected to other state cohorts, and having access to the resources on the Trusted Learning Environment website have really helped us in seeing the challenges as learning opportunities.

How are you sharing the TLE process with your peers and other leadership groups within the State of Ohio?

As a result of our annual Learn21 conference where we had a TLE district present, a handful of districts agreed to work together as a TLE cohort in the 2017-18 school year. The goal was to take what we have learned as a cohort and share our information with school districts in Ohio. In the fall of 2018 our group will be presenting our work with at state superintendents’ conference and ed tech leaders’ workshop.

Do you have any advice for anyone interested in creating and forming their own TLE cohort?

The work is most beneficial when districts work together and learn from one another as they walk through the TLE assessment. It is recommended to start with a small group of districts that are “ready” to have the TLE discuss with district leadership.

What does success look like for you? Success for us can be measured in the many small ways that we have already changed our school environments and our approaches to student data privacy.  We connected so many different schools and districts across the State of Ohio to form this cohort and through it we are sharing ideas and resources, we are raising the discourse across several platforms (our schools, presenting at conferences, and speaking to leadership groups about student data privacy).  Success is changing the privacy landscape in Ohio – not only for ourselves, but for others.  Obtaining the TLE Seal will be a wonderful achievement, but we are already reaping the benefits by just beginning the conversation.

About Learn21: In April 2017, Learn21 became the Ohio chapter of CoSN. Learn21 Ohio CoSN is a non-profit dedicated to educational technology leadership and advocacy. Learn21 Ohio CoSN has over 20 member districts and growing. In 2017-18, we began a CTO mentorship program with over 50 CTO’s, expanded our annual conference to over 250 CTO’s and worked with Ohio Department of Education to strengthen our role in the state technology conference.

In 2018-19, Learn21 Ohio CoSN will offer additional CTO clinics, roundtables. Our annual November conference we will have national speakers regarding interoperability and student data privacy. We will continue to expand our work promoting Ohio TLE (Trusted Learning Environment) cohorts. Finally, our goal is to promote ed tech leadership by supporting the CoSN CETL (Certified Educational Technology Leader) program.

About the CoSN Trusted Learning Environment Program:  The Trusted Learning Environment Seal is a mark of distinction for school systems, signaling that they have taken strong and measurable steps to help protect the privacy of student data.  It is the nation’s only data privacy seal for school systems, focused on ensuring a holistic approach to student data privacy.  For more information or to find out how you can apply for the Trusted Learning Environment Seal or to start a cohort in your area, contact Linnette Attai or visit