This one issue has been a challenge for tech leaders for 10 years

“In the classrooms of today, technology is an integral part of how students learn and are assessed, how teachers teach and are evaluated, how parents are kept informed, and how an individual school is integrated into district and state enterprises.”

Fast-forward 10 years and you’ll find that those responsibilities have only expanded in scope and depth as edtech has become vital for student learning.

The statement comes from the Consortium for School Networking’s first national survey of edtech leaders in 2013. In their just-released 2023 edition, they share some of the most prominent issues K12 tech leaders face today, which may serve as a guide for district leaders evaluating their classroom technologies and security networks ahead of the 2023-24 school year.

While the report highlights various top-of-mind issues among edtech leaders, the authors point to a key challenge that has consistently ranked among their top priorities since 2013: modernized infrastructure.

“Budget restraints and lack of resources were ranked the number-one challenge in 2013 and still rank number one in 2023,” the report reads. “Although budgets have become less of an issue in achieving interoperability goals (40% cite budget constraints as a barrier today versus 54% in 2021), it is still ranked as the second-largest challenge.”

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how tech leaders’ priorities have shifted over the past decade:

2023 edtech leaders’ priorities

  1. Cybersecurity (ranked #13 in 2013)
  2. Network infrastructure (*not included in 2013 survey)
  3. Data privacy and security (*not included in 2013 survey)
  4. IT crisis preparedness (ranked #14 in 2013)
  5. Parent school communications (*not included in 2013 survey)

2013 edtech leaders’ priorities

  1. Mobile learning (ranked #23 in 2023)
  2. BYOD (*not included in 2023 survey)
  3. Online assessment readiness *ranked #20 in 2023)
  4. Broadband access (ranked #22 in 2023)
  5. Cost-effective/smart budgeting (ranked #7 in 2023)

In addition to these findings is the shocking revelation that two-thirds of IT leaders believe their district “has insufficient resources” to address cybersecurity issues, “which likely includes the 12% of districts that do not allocate any funds for cybersecurity defense,” the report reads.

Despite this issue, the authors suggest that leaders commonly underestimate threats to their networks, thus exposing a dire need to allocate more resources to proper training and preparation in cybersecurity.

“While the adoption of practices to improve cybersecurity in K12 is on the rise, so too are the number of bad actors specifically targeting K12 schools,” according to the report.

As technology continues to advance in the classroom, so, too, does the need to provide professional learning to tech leaders to keep them up to speed, the report suggests. Survey respondents argue that topics like cybersecurity, driving and sustaining K1 innovation and data governance/privacy are among their most-needed areas for professional development.

“However, for EdTech leaders the top challenge to professional learning remains carving out the necessary space in their schedules and prioritizing the time and funding over other institutional or organizational needs,” the report reads. “Yet by prioritizing the professional learning of EdTech Leaders and staff, districts will be better able to achieve other priorities. Relying on an IT department that is not able to stay up to data on important developments in EdTech can put a district at risk.”