‘Our On-the-Ground Realities Demand Functional Solutions to High-Stakes Challenges’

‘Our on-the-ground realities demand functional solutions to high-stakes challenges. We seek guidance from peers who have confronted similar pain points, not concepts but actionable and evidence-based strategies… the opportunity to contribute hard-won insights among like-minded change-makers driven by service over sales pitches.’

FUTURE FOCUSED | Joe McBreen

EdTech Digest CEO Victor Rivero has assembled the top education leaders in the country to provide insightful, strategic advice and recommendations to companies so they are powerfully positioned to sell into today’s competitive K-12 markets.

Joe McBreen was recently selected to serve on EdTech Digest’s Future Future Focus Forums (F3) Advisory Board. Educators have been chosen to serve on the prestigious EdTech Digest Future Focus Forums (F3) Advisory Board based on talents, strengths and experiences.

Joe is a highly respected and accomplished educator and technologist who has significantly contributed to education technology. Currently serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Innovation and former Chief Technology Officer for the St. Vrain Valley School District, he has consistently demonstrated his passion for leveraging technology to enhance learning experiences. His leadership has led to remarkable transformations within the St. Vrain Valley School District, now recognized as a national model for educational innovation. His progressive mindset and dedication to empowering students and staff have revolutionized education delivery in an ever-changing digital landscape. By emphasizing creative work-based learning approaches, Joe also plays a pivotal role in addressing the shortage of IT workers, preparing students for successful careers in technology. With a keen understanding of the evolving needs of education, Joe serves as an inspiration to educators and students alike. His unwavering commitment to excellence and transformative change has cemented his status as a highly influential figure in education technology.

After being invited/selected based on your talents, strengths and experiences, what prompted you to want to really go for it and be a part of F3, and particularly F3—with its product-marketing focus?

“I was compelled by F3’s substantive, solutions-oriented nature of the gatherings. Having navigated complex education technology initiatives, I appreciated how F3 assembles respected decision-makers focused on tangible outcomes rather than theoretical discussions.

“Too often, education leadership conferences prioritize flash over practicality – the ‘sizzle’ without the ‘steak.’ While vision matters, our on-the-ground realities demand functional solutions to high-stakes challenges. We seek guidance from peers who have confronted similar pain points, not concepts but actionable and evidence-based strategies.

“F3 stands apart in convening seasoned professionals immersed in the everyday complexities of leading amidst technology transformations. The product-marketing emphasis reveals a commitment to applying innovation to students’ learning experiences rather than innovation for its own sake. I welcomed the opportunity to contribute hard-won insights among like-minded change-makers driven by service over sales pitches.

‘I welcomed the opportunity to contribute hard-won insights among like-minded change-makers driven by service over sales pitches.’

“At this moment in education, we must move from talking to doing, from abstraction to application. We owe it to our teachers, students and communities to make technology work for human flourishing rather than as a distraction. F3 gives me hope that, together with allies equally grounded in real work for real people, we can transform classrooms into springboards for dreams.”

In the course of your work and activities, what to you is the importance of staying up-to-date on products and innovations for learning and education? 

“Staying on top of new developments helps you keep education relevant, aids your personal growth, and lets you be a leader in bringing positive changes.

Fostering Relevance: The educational landscape is dynamic, often mirroring the swift changes in technology and society. Being up-to-date ensures that the educational experiences you design remain relevant and engaging for students who are natives in a digital, interconnected world.

Driving Personal Growth: Exposure to new ideas and technologies enriches your professional repertoire and contributes to your personal growth. It aligns well with your interest in personal development, allowing you to evolve alongside the technologies and methodologies you adopt.

Catalyzing Change: As someone at the forefront of innovation in education, your awareness of the latest trends positions you as a catalyst for change. You can better anticipate future directions and guide your district in making informed, forward-thinking decisions. This ties into the human aspect of technology, ensuring that innovations are applied to genuinely enhance learning and development.

“In essence, staying informed is not just about keeping pace with technology; it’s about leading with insight and foresight in an ever-changing educational environment.”

Why is it important for senior leadership in companies (founders, product leads, marketing leads) to not only really have a strong sense of what school district technology leaders like yourself are going through and needing, but to connect with them and their realities in the most effective way possible?

“It is vitally important for senior leaders in education technology companies to intimately understand the realities and needs of school district technology leaders. After all, we evaluate, pilot, implement, and support the tools that directly impact teachers and students. Without grasping our constraints, priorities, and day-to-day challenges, product decisions turn into shots in the dark.

“Effective partnership requires ongoing dialogue—listening as much as speaking. Seeking direct input through advisory boards, user research, and community building allows authentic insights into our ‘jobs to be done.’ What pain points keep us up at night? Where are the greatest opportunities to augment learning? Regular connection increases context that fuels innovation in meeting actual district demands.

“Leaders should gather school tech perspectives and act upon this invaluable vantage to inform strategic product roadmaps. Hire talent with school district ed tech experience. Immerse product managers in site visits to witness user workflows firsthand. Let our educational realities guide feature scoping, pricing models, change management features and more.

“A deep understanding of those managing learning environments must direct the tools built for them. When senior leaders join forces with us, magic happens. Students are better served. Teachers are more empowered. Technology elevates instead of distracts. We all share the mission of empowering the future through education, so let’s do so—together. 

‘When senior leaders join forces with us, magic happens. Students are better served. Teachers are more empowered. Technology elevates instead of distracts. We all share the mission of empowering the future through education, so let’s do so—together.’

There are other meetings resembling F3 in our edtech field – what makes Future Focus Forums (F3) particularly unique and vital? What sets these customized-agenda-driven product-and-marketing / issues and challenges- structured focus groups apart and makes them absolutely necessary for company leaders?  

“F3 provides space for leaders driving complex initiatives to converge not just as customers and vendors, but as collaborators moving education forward.

“The structured agenda guarantees laser focus on product roadmaps and emerging district challenges. Discussing pain points sparks remarkable vulnerability; hearing peers voice similar struggles brings tremendous bonding and reassurance. Complex issues find clarity as collective wisdom surfaces.

“Nuances from funding fluctuations to curriculum variances between states mean one district’s pressing priority may barely register for another. Honing conversation to job function and location brings relevant context to the forefront.

“Finally, the relationships catalyzed at F3 gatherings prove invaluable. Connecting with counterparts who “get it” is professionally and even emotionally restorative. Ongoing threads carry insights beyond these forums. I continue benefiting from the authentic community and purpose shared there.

“If leaders aren’t proactively listening, how can we serve students and teachers responsibly? F3 makes space for this radical listening, spurring understanding to then spark better support. It is education leadership develop at its very best.”

As we look ahead to the future of learning, and considering what F3 can deliver to company leaders, what advice do you have for those leaders to help make them more effective in reaching their goals? Why are these forums so vital to the future? Anything else you want to add or emphasize? 

“As education rapidly evolves, Future Focus Forums serve an indispensable role guiding leaders toward more informed, empathetic decisions. My advice – leverage these vibrant conversations not just to broadcast messages, but to truly listen, learn, connect.

“Approach each forum eager to understand. Let go of assumptions; district leaders’ transparency allows you to access ground truth shaping real usage and outcomes. Resist simply justifying plans; instead integrate takeaways to radically improve reliability of execution.

“Connect beyond transactions. The relationships seeded here prove invaluable long-term. Continue conversations; provide resources and follow-up demonstrating commitment. Support leaders beyond customers to become collaborators.

“Finally, honor the future by acting in service of students’ best interests. Let insights lead back to affirming your purpose – from revenue goals to lives changed. Hold yourselves accountable to the wisdom leaders courageously share here at F3.

“The magic of F3 is facilitating insight and vision flowing together. Having your ear to the ground fuels relevance and impact. And your vision empowers us to better serve our communities. Stay humble, help us be bold, together we will change the world—the promise of the future.”

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Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest and Executive Producer of EdTech Digest’s Future Focus Forums (F3 events). Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

Michael M. Flood is F3 Corporate Advisor. If you are a founder, product lead, or marketing lead and would like to learn more, reach out to Michael at mflood@alpinefrog.net

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