‘That Chance to Talk Openly and Honestly Greatly Enriches the Process and Resulting Products’

‘…having that chance to talk openly and honestly about challenges on both sides greatly enriches the process and resulting products that are available to school districts.’

FUTURE FOCUSED | Jill Hobson

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.

Jill Hobson 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.

Jill has more than 25 years of experience planning, implementing and evaluating software and hardware solutions in public education as well as in the private sector. Jill serves as the Chief Technology Officer for Gainesville City Schools (GA). Prior to joining the district, she was with IMS Global and Promethean. For more than 15 years, she served as Director of Instructional Technology in Forsyth County Schools (GA).

Her education philosophy highlights the value of innovation in the classroom, champions effective tools, resources, and strategies that address the diverse needs and abilities of both students and educators, and also challenges pedagogy and outdated teaching practices. 

Jill participates in numerous educational associations, memberships, and conferences, regularly offering support and expertise in different capacities from board membership to speaking. 

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 am very pleased to be part of the F3 team. As someone who has worked both sides—public school system as well as working for corporate edtech—I feel that I have some sense of the needs of both “verticals” and am excited to be able to share from my 25 plus years in public education some of the needs and concerns that come into play when choosing various technologies in a school system. The F3 experience is going to be so collaborative and less “sales-y”.  

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? 

As a CTO in K12 public education, I feel it is my responsibility to stay abreast of new technologies and tools that may benefit my school system. I try to keep up with what’s available through participation in conferences and professional organizations, reading publications and networking with my peers. It’s a constantly changing landscape and I don’t have as much time as I would like to devote to this aspect of my role. I also am very aware that the buying power of a smaller school system may limit my opportunities to engage with certain companies. 

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? 

This is, perhaps, the most exciting part of being involved in F3. Building relationships that allow for meaningful partnership, collaboration and thoughtful dialogue between the sellers and buyers will ultimately benefit every single school district in the nation. I hope that I can share ideas and experience not only from my own district but from the experiences I know my peers are having in other districts. Senior corporate leaders must be the ones who set the priorities for development cycles and customer implementation and by having that chance to talk openly and honestly about challenges on both sides greatly enriches the process and resulting products that are available to school districts.

‘…having that chance to talk openly and honestly about challenges on both sides greatly enriches the process and resulting products that are available to school districts.’

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?  

I’ve had an opportunity to participate in several focus group events with corporate edtech. Some of them have been very meaningful in that the dialogue was facilitated by skilled and knowledgeable neutral parties. Others have been much more driven by market conditions and sponsorship dollars that left me feeling used up. The structure for F3 that focuses on future development and where we need innovation to get to are far more useful from my point of view. 

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? 

Corporate leadership who really care about doing the right thing, making a difference for students and respect and appreciate the input of district leaders, will never get a more honest and revealing chance to discuss their product development road map with actual practitioners. Send decision-makers to participate in the F3 events, not sales representatives, to make the most effective use of the experience. Come prepared to explain the why behind the what but also be willing to pivot quickly based on the conversation.

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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