Driving K-12 Innovation: Tech Enablers

I’ve been quite fortunate to work on the CoSN report, Driving K-12 Innovation, for the past three years. Each year I join a team of over 100 K-12 leaders, practitioners, and changemakers from around the world to look at emerging trends in K-12 education. We examine the major themes driving, hindering, and enabling teaching and learning innovation at schools around the world. 

The process involves three key steps:

  1. An initial survey to select the topics along three dimensions: Hurdles, Accelerators, and Tech Enablers;
  2. Online and virtual discussions for each dimension;
  3. A concluding survey where the advisory board rates each dimension. 

Based on the survey results the CoSN editorial team then selects the top 3 for each dimension. According to the project, “accelerators” drive teaching and learning innovation in schools, while “hurdles” hinder it. Tech Enablers are the tools that allow educators to address the barriers by accelerating the change process. 

Top Hurdles, Accelerators, and Tech Enablers for 2021

In February 2022 CoSN released the Tech Enablers:

As part of the release I participated in a Virtual Summit with many of the advisers as we looked into more detail how the Tech Enablers played out in the midst of a global pandemic. Probably no technology enabler played a more critical role than Digital Collaboration. According to the experts, “It makes Hybrid Learning possible.” Untethered Broadband and Connectivity grew dramatically as schools and other institutions grappled with the challenge of millions of new users trying to access digital resources. Analytics and Adaptive Technologies were important during the pandemic, but difficult to obtain. Parents, educators, and the students themselves needed this information to best understand where to focus on the learning. 

Here’s a cartoonist’s rendition of our conversation:

Tech Enablers: Driving K-12 Innovation Summit

Tech Enablers 2020

For the past two years I’ve worked on the advisory board for the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) report on Driving K-12 Innovation. I also serve as the co-chair of the Emerging Technologies Committee for CoSN. In both roles I’m looking at how educational technology can impact the delivery of curriculum and instruction. The Driving K-12 Innovation project starts by identifying the obstacles for learning in K-12. Then the advisers from around the world examine the accelerators, the ideas, programs, and projects that increase the speed for solving a problem in a classroom. Finally the international team highlights the educational solutions, the tech-enablers, that address the Hurdles and at the same time tap into the Accelerators. 

This past week CoSN released its latest Driving Innovation report on Tech Enablers. The report explores the top five technology tools improving education this year by enabling innovation and facilitating adaptation during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the international advisory board of edtech experts, the most important Tech Enablers for schools to leverage in 2020 in order to surmount Hurdles and embrace Accelerators advancing the digital transformation are: Digital Collaboration Platforms; Tools for Privacy & Safety Online; Analytics & Adaptive Technologies; Cloud Infrastructure; and Mobile Devices.

“In today’s COVID-19 world, the importance of effective virtual learning environments has significantly increased. CoSN’s Tech Enablers report will help school systems determine the technology advancements that are critical for teaching and learning in 2020,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “The two-part Driving K-12 Innovation series provides educators with a holistic view of the current edtech landscape and allows them to lead technological change in their districts and beyond.”

According to the CoSN site: The report delves into two Tech Enablers that are particularly salient given the COVID-19 pandemic-fueled transition to virtual learning and provides related anecdotes from school leaders across the country:

  • Digital Collaboration Platforms: Digital collaboration platforms can enable a broader range of learning opportunities on both the global and local level, help students develop digital and career-relevant skills, and support professional development and learning communities. To leverage this Tech Enabler, educators and school systems must prioritize safety and privacy, develop stakeholder competency, and address issues of equity and access.
  • Tools for Privacy & Safety Online: Tools for privacy & safety online, such as privacy settings in apps, administrative/parental controls, filters and education/support resources, can help school systems, educators and students protect themselves in digital spaces. To effectively leverage this Tech Enabler, educators should utilize communities and resources, craft relevant policies and processes, and build stakeholder understanding and capability.

CoSN issued the 2020 Hurdles + Accelerators report in March and will also be releasing a Toolkit to help its members navigate the interconnected Hurdles-Accelerators-Tech Enablers ecosystem. Last year I developed a workshop with Susan Bearden from CoSN to share the Toolkit at the ISTE Conference. It looks like this year that won’t happen. However, the toolkit is just another excellent reason for all educational technology leaders to consider joining CoSN

You can learn more about the Driving K-12 Innovation initiative at cosn.org/k12innovation.