Beaverton schools CIO discusses next steps for edtech expansion

After leading major IT updates in his Oregon district, Steve Langford plans to spend the next year evaluating that progress and surging ahead.

Having
overcome a period of funding shortages in Oregon’s Beaverton School District —
and, later, an economic recession — district CIO Steve Langford is seeing the
payoff of technology investments in recent years.

Since 2014, when the state secured the largest bond in its
history — $680 million, about $70 million of which went toward technology — Langford and his team of 80 IT specialists have equipped Beaverton’s 41,000 students and 5,000
staff members with digital tools to aid in their learning.

In recent years, the suburban Portland district and its 51
schools have also replaced a 20-year-old analog phone system, installed over
1,000 wireless access points to increase network connectivity and deployed
one-to-one computing for its 4th- to 12th-graders.

“It’s now time, as we start to think about
refreshing that [one-to-one] program for the second half of the bond, for us to
think about what devices align with the content curriculum and the tasks
students are being able to do,” Langford said in a recent interview with
EdScoop. “This year for us is going to be an evaluation year.”

When
Beaverton schools were preparing to launch one-to-one, both the technology
teams and the teaching and learning teams were careful not to rush the
integration of the devices into the classrooms, Langford said. They wanted to
be thoughtful about their approach and be mindful of the desired end results.

“It
wasn’t just about getting devices … out into schools,” Langford said. “The
teams worked together to really understand how the practice of teaching would
change — and could change — supported by technology, how content and curriculum
could be shifted and enhanced by using technology devices and tools, and then
finally the devices themselves.”

View more of EdScoop’s interviews with innovative school CIOs.

A second
priority for the year ahead, he said, involves understanding the findings from
the district’s recent security audit and developing best practices for the
community.

“Cybersecurity,
student data privacy, is not something that is a large-district or a small-district
problem,” Langford said. “It really is our responsibility … [and] it’s
important for us to be able to be transparent with [students and staff] and
demonstrate areas where we are employing best practices and areas where we need
to grow.”

He also
addressed one of the greatest challenges he faces in his role. Because IT
departments at school districts tend to be understaffed and resource-strapped,
Langford said, the best thing he and his peers can do is put their heads
together and collaborate.

“Many of
us are tackling the exact same issues,” Langford said. “There’s great value in,
rather than trying to solve the problem alone, being in a community where
you’ve got trusted peers and you’ve got relationships to lean on and rely upon,
and it just accelerates all of our work.”

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