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Spring 2019 Issue One
Lorrie Owens
Adventures in Tech: Cetpa Navigates AWS Re:invent With 50,000 of Its Closest Friends
By Andrea Bennett and Ranie Lambe


How does one navigate an IT conference with over 50,000 people from around the world? How do attendees find topics that are K-12- specific, at a conference that announces 100+ new cloud services each year? What does one pack for a week of IT mania?

Last November, answering these questions is exactly what 15 CETPA members set out to do.

The adventure began with a conversation over coffee. Andrea Bennett, CETPA’s Executive Director, and the Amazon Web Services (AWS) K-12 team met to discuss cloud computing and CETPA‘s work providing training and support for its K-12 IT members. The emergence of cloud computing has generated a new set of questions, ideas, and challenges for K-12 IT leaders and CETPA was looking for ways to help support members navigating this new terrain.

Simultaneously, AWS expanded its K-12 footprint, supporting K-12 entities that wanted their organizations to be cloud based. AWS wanted to give IT professionals working in K-12 an easy way to understand and explain the cloud and its services. One way to do that was through CETPA members.

So it was there, at this coffee, that the idea to send a group of CETPA members to the AWS re:Invent conference was born. The CETPA Board sponsored 15 IT professionals from member districts to participate in AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas this past December.

AWS re:Invent is AWS’s annual user conference, which provides opportunities to connect with peers and cloud experts, collaborate at sessions, and learn how AWS is innovating with the cloud. Sessions included a deep dive into the AWS Cloud, a variety of real-world use cases on how to build cloud into current environments, deep technical content, hands-on learning opportunities, and access to AWS experts. The conference delivered over 1,000 sessions, chalk talks, workshops, builder sessions, and hack-a-thons covering AWS core topics and emerging technologies. Topics included databases, analytics and big data, security and compliance, enterprise, and machine learning.

The 2018 AWS re:Invent conference welcomed over 50,000 customers worldwide filling the meeting rooms of six Las Vegas hotels. The AWS K-12 team and the CETPA group began their re:Invent adventure on the first day. In addition to sessions, the group attended a social event with other K-12 attendees from around the U.S. to network and learn from one another. Attendees discussed cloud migration, vendors, partners, and innovative ways to analyze data, given the demands of current district needs.

Day two brought greater interest and confidence in navigating re:Invent. The group continued to chat about what they were learning and the various events such as the Builder Fair, keynotes, and lunch.

Two executive briefing conferences were set up exclusively for CETPA attendees on AWS compute services and Amazon AppStream 2.0 with AWS experts. The briefings allowed for a personalized conversation on how to approach these workloads in the individual districts and county education offices. Given that the group represented a spectrum of K-12 entities, from small to large districts and COEs with various AWS experience, the briefings allowed participants to discuss specific situations for current users, while providing ideas to those who were new to the cloud.

Data security was at the forefront of these discussions, which led to more focus on sessions addressing the Shared Responsibility Model to which AWS adheres. The group dove deep into how AWS is responsible for security of the cloud, while customers are responsible for how they put data into the cloud. Through conversations with peers along with AWS experts, the group dissected how these security best practices affect how they currently consider on-premises data centers.

Another side of the data conversation emerged, which was answering this question: “How can we best use data to inform our district strategy and support our students and families?” A lunch came together, including some of the AWS data interoperability and data standards experts. CETPA cohort members discussed the risks and rewards of accessing more data. The group offered perspectives on how to best access and analyze data, which helped surface common challenges with CA K-12 districts around accessing and using data effectively for stakeholders.

After several days of sessions and conversations, it was clear why there was an emphasis on bringing water and good walking shoes to the conference. At the same time, the “ah-ha!” moments were setting in and a shift had occurred in the energy of the group. They became focused on attending events and sessions that addressed what they were working on in their districts and COEs. They sought out AWS experts and other customers who could talk through their new ideas.

In addition to learning, there was also a lot of fun that was included in the week. Laser tag, dodgeball, and music performances rounded out each evening, offering a chance to regroup before the next day. One of the CETPA attendees participated in the AWS 8k charity run!

After the week was over, the group shared feedback and confirmed that CETPA met its mission of supporting CA IT professionals in learning and innovation.

This experience will be available to all members through the ongoing work of the CETPA study group. The group committed to sharing key learnings, and opening the door to all members to continue the conversation. CETPA members should keep an eye on the dedicated link from CETPA to follow the updates from this group throughout 2019. Members can expect to see a whitepaper, authored by the group, about the re:Invent experience and key learnings. Several members will be hosting CETPAsponsored webinars throughout the year, focusing on key topics and integration of cloud services in to district strategies.

The 15 CETPA pioneers met this challenge with vigor and consideration, and the CETPA Board held true to its mission of supporting its members as the challenges and opportunities of new technologies continue to present themselves to K-12. Stay tuned later this year for more opportunities like these offered by CETPA!




Publications Library

Item Name Posted By Date Posted
2019 Media Kit PDF (1.02 MB) Administration 4/26/2019
Fall 2017 PDF (6.64 MB) Administration 5/13/2019
Fall 2018 PDF (41.2 KB) Administration 5/13/2019
Spring 2018 PDF (4.48 MB) Administration 5/13/2019
Winter 2018 PDF (2.68 MB) Administration 5/13/2019