When the opportunity to join the Driving K-12 Innovation Advisory Board for 2022 came across my social media feed, I jumped at the opportunity to support this work. Each year this report provides insights regarding the Hurdles (barriers), Accelerators (catalysts/mega-trends), and Tech Enablers (tools) currently impacting digital transformation efforts within K-12 education. As a technology leader in a K-12 organization, I knew participating would enable me to connect with others and learn about technology use in education worldwide. However,  I did not anticipate the opportunity to reflect on the impact within my organization and use those reflections to inform our strategic work.

John Dewey is credited with the quote, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” During a time in education marked by radical changes in response to public health concerns, educators and the IT professionals who support them have been busy taking action. This year we may have thought there’d be more time for reflection, but for many, including myself, continued public health challenges, in addition to moving forward with a “new normal,” has required continual flexibility and day-to-day adjustments.

hurdlesIn our conversations regarding Hurdles, I had the opportunity to reflect on the ongoing challenge of teacher recruitment and retention and how it has been compounded by current challenges attracting employees across a wider variety of roles and industries, including information technology. In our organization, this makes the imperative for using technology to improve efficiency even more important. However, we need to balance the desire to update processes with individuals’ capacity to implement and absorb change. Strategically finding the next places for iterative improvements may be key in making the best use of our committed staff members.

acceleratorsReflecting on current Accelerators and their impact on our organization helped me recognize the progress we’ve made in considering the social and emotional needs of not only our students but also our staff members. It seems there has always been a place for ice-breakers, check-ins, and recognition within educational collaborations. Now, these activities feel more essential than ever and valued as the opportunities they are to connect and value each other as people working together to serve our community. The work we are doing is important, but so are the people engaging in this work together.

techenablersThe conversations and reflections around Tech Enablers were possibly the most invigorating as it was a chance to look back and recognize how much technology was relied upon to solve challenges during the last couple of years. Though not all solutions were ideal, our teachers, students, and technology staff have grown by leaps and bounds in their ability to identify and deploy technical solutions. In addition, the fact that now every student in our district has a personal device, and school-provided network access from home if needed, creates possibilities for learning that did not exist just two years ago. Now we have the opportunity to consider what world-class, future-focused learning can look like for our students.

Participating on the Advisory Board has been similar to other volunteer opportunities with CoSN in that I gained just as much, if not more, through participation than I gave. It reminds me of the Friends episode in which Joey tells Phoebe there is no such thing as a selfless good deed, and he challenges Phoebe to find an example. I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to benefit my organization through volunteering to support this community of technology leaders in education!

Dr. Michelle Watt
Chief Systems Officer
Scottsdale Unified School District

Join us for the 2022 Driving K-12 Innovation Summits:
Summit #1 Hurdles & Accelerators | Wednesday, February 2 11a.m. – 12:30p.m. EST
Summit #2 Tech Enablers | Wednesday, February 16 7p.m. – 8p.m. EST
CoSN Members

Summit Description:
The ongoing stress and constant learning/pivoting required during the evolving pandemic have shown that educators crave community. These summits aim to provide a space for educators, technology leaders, and innovators to connect and feel heard. A place to celebrate the incredible work we are doing to sustain learning and support students and each other, and re-energize with practical ideas you can take back to your school system.  Recognizing that educator well-being is foundational to the ability to engage in innovation, these sessions seek to lift you up so that you leave feeling more able to engage in the challenging and ongoing work of enabling student success and crafting the future of K-12 education.

For these interactive Summits, we’re leaning into a playful storytelling/newspaper motif: sponsor representatives and DK12i Advisory Board members will serve as panelists – “reporters” for Driving Innovation Weekly, a fictional CoSN magazine. Each reporter will be assigned one of the Top Topics and be sent into breakout rooms with other attendees to gather information for their article. This discussion time will form the heart of the sessions, allowing attendees to connect with each other and the Top Topics and fuel a share-out at the end. Finally, building upon all the work that’s been done and celebrating the release of the 2022 publications, these sessions will each conclude with an invitation to dive deeper into the recommendations.