To Infinity and Beyond

I attended and presented at the 2022 CoSN conference in Nashville. I’m eager to get back and bring what I learned and experienced to my team. In the meantime, I thought I would write down a few thoughts to share more broadly.

CoSN 2022 reminded me how important it is for education technology leaders to get out of our silos and interact. The rapid rise of online collaboration due to Covid has given us easy access to knowledgeable others from the comfort of our homes in our soft pants. While this is great and convenient, it’s no substitute for the opportunities we can find when we force ourselves to interact all day, in person, wearing work attire. Engaging with other CTOs in sessions and at dinner and events helps open our thinking and spheres of influence, both of which add value and help break down our silos. In addition, there were so many quality vendors, all located in one place at CoSN 2022, who were eager to answer questions and help solve the issues we were facing. After two years of online conferences, it was a refreshing and exhausting experience to see colleagues in person. I’m a proponent of online education and access, but I still feel the opportunities presented for meaningful collaboration are exponentially better at in-person conferences like CoSN.

Cybersecurity is a thing. As we were heading out to the CETL dinner, we talked about our big conference takeaways. A fellow CETL joked, “I wish there were more sessions on cybersecurity.” While it brought a hardy laugh from us nerds, it was also a somber reminder that the threats are real. As CTOs and edtech leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our schools and systems are as safe as possible from cyber threats. This means not only protecting our hardware and software systems but also means helping the people who access these systems understand their roles in keeping everyone safe and protected. Tim Tillman summed it up by saying, “In terms of cybersecurity, humans are often the weakest link.” The cost of cyber-attacks can’t be measured in simply financial terms: the loss of student data and trust from our stakeholders compounds the real impact that is at stake. It’s everyone’s job to understand the risks and mitigate them at every turn, and, as edtech leaders, we have to lead the charge.

CoSN 2022 is not the conference you want to skate away from early! The closing session with Dr. Christopher Emdin was epic, literally epic. He moved us with his energy and words. I don’t think I’ve seen a speaker spend more time preaching from the top of open chairs in the audience, but that’s just what Dr. Emdin did. He reminded us that we shouldn’t be trying to get back to normal; we should be trying to re-envision things anew. Let’s face it; the old normal was broken. There was disparity, racism, access and achievement gaps, and kids who were simply not being served appropriately by a traditional education model. As educators, we have to push daily for a better path forward. Complacency will move us backward. He said, “Be a good human being, and you get to DEI. When you harm, apologize. Be better!” It’s a simple but powerful message – be better—something we can all do every day. A good friend of mine, @BTTYPrincipal on Twitter, leads his school by asking every student and adult to be Better Today Than Yesterday. It’s a simple principle that could literally change the world if we all followed it.

This blog post was originally published by CoSN on May 10, 2022.