Cybersecurity & ChatGPT Dominate the Conversation at 2023 CoSN Indiana CTO Clinic
Written by: Eric Nentrup
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) annual gathering of Hoosier edtech professionals met in Carmel, and the ballroom was full of attendees…but they’re tired. Escalating stress is a common condition for all educators; however, mitigating risks which interrupt a child’s learning is still the mission while getting current with topics given that their work is never finished—even while attending a professional learning conference. Their issues span the gamut of construction crews accidentally cutting fiber optic cables to updating local policies to account for emerging technologies, namely those following the tidal wave that is the advent of the AI era in the mainstream.
CoSN’s 2023 Indiana CTO Clinic kicked off with a spirit of inclusivity and professional pride. Along with the numerous sponsors who generously support the gathering, the organizers greeted the 200+ attendees and vendors with an inspiring reminder of the importance of keeping school networks safe and operational to protect instructional time and offer access to innovative learning. The landscape has been changing exponentially for IT professionals who work in education (or educators with IT credentials, for that matter). This new era, where the pandemic served as the first act and the “ChatGPT Effect” is appearing to lead the second, comes with new issues and thus a need for new agreements and new strategies for all the roles represented by the audience in attendance.
“… an inspiring reminder of the importance of keeping school networks safe and operational to protect instructional time and offer access to innovative learning.”
These topics—both formally and informally—shaped the two-day event, and Richard Culatta reoriented his remarks from his recent book, Digital for Good, to reflect these shifts. The author and ISTE CEO pointed out how we now have an enormous amount of data about what effective remote learning does and doesn’t look like and need to transfer those learnings to ensure all schools afford their students (and teachers) effective digital learning. This has implications for a shift in tone about local policies such as the ubiquitous school district acceptable use policy or AUP. Drawing for his book, Culatta suggested we reframe how we communicate our safety and efficacy needs to highlight what is positively possible vs. what is prohibited—especially as we address the also ubiquitous and immediate prohibition of ChatGPT for students in many school corporations.
“… we reframe how we communicate our safety and efficacy needs to highlight what is positively possible vs. what is prohibited.”
Beyond the keynote, there were a number of sessions presented by district educators, vendors, state department of education staff and other learning organizations committed to supporting the mission of CoSN. They opened conversations to tackle pragmatic topics spanning cybersecurity and student data privacy as well as effective digital/blended learning solutions. The schedule featured a range of informative and insightful sessions for those working in the field of educational technology. With topics ranging from cybersecurity to student data privacy, this year’s event offered a wealth of knowledge for Hoosier school district CTOs and IT professionals.
Dr. Pete Just, CoSN’s Indiana CTO Council Executive Director and respected (and retired) MSD Wayne CTO, not only brought together an excellent assembly, but helmed a session offering an AI literacy overview for how ChatGPT fits into the broader landscape of emerging technology. A former classroom teacher himself, Just used ChatGPT to introduce CoSN’s educational cybersecurity work and to roll out their initiatives to equip districts of all sizes to mitigate if not eliminate vulnerabilities that could interfere with teaching and learning.
Here are some of the other session highlights:
- ENA presented the NIST standards in a cybersecurity rubric developed with other partners to assist tech directors in finding gaps and bolstering defenses in their strategies.
- Dr. Tara Nattrass from Dell Education talked about building a culture of security responsibility, citing her extensive field work and educator experience for her message.
- Attendees learned about “Creating a Sustainable Technology Plan for Your District” in a session presented by Tom Adams, Chief Technology Officer at Franklin Community Schools. The session provided practical advice on developing a long-term technology plan aligned with district goals and priorities.
- Jena Fahlbush brought to the forefront accessibility issues around digital and blended learning environments for the sake of educational equity for all learners and the support PATINS continues to provide.
- Attendees enjoyed a session on “Effective Use of EdTech in the Classroom,” presented by Amanda Johnson, Director of Curriculum and Instructional Technology at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. This session provided insights into how to effectively integrate technology into lesson plans and optimize its impact on student learning.
- Director of Technology for MSD of Steuben County and CoSN CETL, Chantell Manahan offered universal leadership guidance for the current landscape by introducing proven change management strategies.
- Purdue University’s Carly Turow educated the room about their Applied Cybersecurity Essentials Badge Series of subtopics and associated micro credentials for working professionals
Overall, the 2023 Indiana CTO Clinic served as a timely event for the often unsung heroes who keep learning moving forward in Indiana schools. Attendees came away with new insights and strategies for improving their work in this important field as the current school year winds down and retooling of plans for district offices ramp up through the summer. And ahead of the first full school year in the AI era, CoSN’s resources will have increasing value to the learning communities who heed their advice, programs, and credentials.