Superintendents Share Their Biggest Barriers to Digital Transformation

August 23, 2019

At a recent Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI) summit, the Enboard team had the opportunity to speak with distinguished superintendents from school districts serving a combined total of 200,000+ students across nine states on the topic of K-12 digital transformation. Over the course of several hours, they described many of the challenges they experience when implementing educational technology in a way that not only tangibly improves student outcomes but also makes both their teachers’ and IT teams’ lives easier. Here’s what they shared about their journeys during these insightful conversations:

 

Overall, the biggest barrier is equitable access. Many underprivileged students have limited interaction with digital resources, depriving them of the opportunity to develop skills and study. Closing this digital divide was a top priority for all the districts we spoke with:

“One of our two big goals as a district next year is to really define equity and accessibility.”

“Technology can be a tremendous support for education, but I’m fearful that we’re getting farther away from equity.”

“So much learning takes place outside of school, and many kids are doing really well with that, but our disadvantaged kids are struggling.”

 

Data security is the second biggest pain point when undergoing digital transformation. The superintendents we spoke with described the difficulty of securing users’ personally identifiable information (PII) while still providing them with unimpeded access to the academic tools needed for everyday tasks. During our conversations at ERDI it became clear that cybersecurity weighed heavy on everyone’s minds: 

“I worry about our children in terms of cyber safety.”

“I don’t want to look at my next email because it could be that the next big security incident was potentially a result of something that we created.”

“Our ‘Pandora’s Box’ is that we now know when our students are online and what they’re doing, — even when they’re not involved in the academic arena.”

 

Accurately measuring the return on investment (ROI) of educational technology was a commonly reported blindspot among school administration. Superintendents said they often felt they had limited understanding of how resources were being used, and if usage correlated with improved student achievement. This lack of evaluation criteria was frustrating for many of the districts we talked to: 

“We purchased multiple tools, and we’re grappling to understand the use of these tools to solve both technical and adaptive challenges.”

“One of the biggest frustrations for us is answering questions like ‘What’s the purpose? So we buy technology? To what end?’”

“It’s impacting our kids and our ability to give them the best services that are appropriate to their needs, as opposed to just pushing things their way that really aren’t getting to the heart of their needs.”

 

Unnecessary complexity is often an unfortunate, unintended consequence of digital transformation. Orchestrating the disparate systems needed to run district operations can prove overwhelming. The desire to streamline educational technology adoption and ensure its fidelity of use was an underlying theme that shaped many of our discussions at ERDI: 

“Digital transformation has made our work more difficult and more stressful.”

“We have tons of data points, but pulling them together and figuring out the right data that we really should be looking at has been a real frustration.”

 

We’re guessing these superintendents aren’t alone in their concerns—maybe you’ve experienced them in your own district. We’ve investigated how these institutions and others have overcome the challenges described above and created a helpful set of digital transformation guidelines that can be adapted to your school district’s unique needs.  

 

In the coming weeks, we’ll be exploring these concerns through a series of emails and webinars where we’ll explore the prominence of these issues, their far-reaching impacts, and best-practice solutions. 

 

What roadblocks has your school district encountered on the road to successfully implementing educational technology? We’d love to strategize with you how to best implement identity access and management best practices to help your district achieve its digital transformation objectives.