In April, I had the opportunity to work with a number of K-12 school leaders and Blackboard staff at the Blackboard K-12 Executive Symposium in New York City. This event was co-hosted by our partner, NBC Learn, at the NBC studios at “30 Rock”. We spent 2 days exploring the critical issues K-12 leaders face, how Blackboard can help them meet these challenges, and how some of their peers are already using Blackboard solutions to address these issues. See photos below.

In addition to the ongoing core challenge of meeting the academic and learning needs of students, participants shared the key issues they are facing. Highlights of these issues include:

  • Finding effective solutions and strategies to address budget reductions
  • More efficient usage of existing resources
  • Informing and changing perceptions of staff and community on 21st century learning needs
  • Establishing collaborative teaching and learning environments with consistent expectations
  • Expanded use of current and new technologies
  • Proactive communication with parents, staff and community

These issues align with what I hear from education leaders across the country. K-12 leaders are challenged to innovate and reform current educational practices to meet the current and anticipated teaching and learning needs of their schools, staff, students and community. They must lead this work while facing the fact that fiscal and human resources are shrinking.

Participants heard from their peers in Briarcliff Manor School District (NY), Egg Harbor Township School District (NJ), Elmhurst Community Unified School District #205 (IL), Southern York School District (PA) and Gwinnett Public Schools (GA) on how they use Blackboard Learn, Collaborate and Connect technology to engage their community, manage technology resources, expand staff and student learning experiences, implement collaborative learning environments while facing their own budget reductions.

Here are a few examples of the stories that these districts shared:

  1. Egg Harbor Township School District saves over $300,000 per school* year by using Blackboard Connect™ to relay important district messages to parents, students and staff. They no longer waste time and money on printing, stuffing and mailing letters to their constituents. Messaging has become much more efficient and reliable, not only for emergency notifications, but also for district information, school closings, interactive surveys and rumor control.
  2. Gwinnett Public Schools has grown their “Online Campus” by using Blackboard Collaborate™ to deliver a synchronous learning component to their online courses and professional development programs. Since they started in 2001, they have hosted more than 2,900 participants and have grown their number of collaborative “rooms” to 1108. In addition to synchronous classes, faculty are using Blackboard Collaborate to offer after-school help sessions, to host field experts for project-based learning, and to hold meetings and even special occasions virtually.
  3. Southern York School District has been able to extend online learning beyond professional development and will be offering fully online courses to students in the upcoming 2011-12 school year using Blackboard Learn™. Originally part of a consortium that controlled the usage of their Blackboard Learn instance, Southern York has since broken away and is now giving all students and faculty access to Blackboard Learn so that everyone can benefit from learning in an online environment.

In addition to seeing real life examples of online learning from their peers, attendees also learned how Blackboard and NBC Learn can provide historic news reports, original video content, and current events, to engage, inspire and educate students. NBC Learn’s video archives bring to life many of the subjects that students are learning in class, from the biology concept of photosynthesis to the physics of football.

At the end of the day, we all realize that the challenges of K-12 educational leadership are great. Blackboard is working with education leaders to proactively address these needs and improve the way students learn every day. If you are a district leader who is interested in joining us for future executive symposiums to continue these important conversations, please email

*Results may not be typical.  Please see your Blackboard Account Executive for more information.

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