Cards we were dealt...
Change is difficult. Most of the time when this kind of shift happens from a change in leadership, it causes the entire organization to reflect. At the core of every change initiative is the desire to breathe new life into the organization―to revitalize ways of thinking, behaving and working. Nearly four years ago, Mr. Mark A. Evans was brought in as Superintendent to institute change processes that resulted from a needs assessment. This led to the creation of a five-year strategic plan as well as passing the largest bond issue in Nebraska history. Technology was set as a priority as the district hadn't focused in this area in some time. Professional development and planned obsolescence for devices were outlined in the strategic plan as prioritized strategies. This post outlines how Omaha Public Schools placed an emphasis on digital citizenship through professional learning and the development of a device deployment.
For nearly a decade, the district has partnered with Common Sense Media to provide a half-time position funded through the Sherwood Foundation that provided some form of digital citizenship functions with the district and the state. Being a half-time position and dual enrollment the other half, it was difficult to focus time and needed resources for the district's strategic plan priorities.
The Position Shift
The decision was made to move the position from the Curriculum and Instruction Support to Information Management Services. This move would also expand the position to full time and would be housed under the instructional technology umbrella. The importance of this position to our initiatives was so much that it is also the only position in instructional technology that I personally supervise. It is a great fit for the district since we were beginning to introduce 21st Century Skills into our Best Instructional Practices Handbook. Keegan Korf was selected for the position and has done a remarkable job at defining much of this plan moving forward.
In October 2014, the district implemented Microsoft Office 365 as a collaboration platform and in the process created a unique relationship in their fast track and early adopter programs. Through this relationship, Eileen Heller (see above) and Connie Wickham (also above) worked on creating an Innovation Academy comprised of a cohort initially with around 100 educators throughout the district. In the second year, we added another 100 educators. The cohort was further enhanced by leadership from Wendy Loewenstein. At the start of this year, the addition of Keegan's role, as well as this year's focus on devices for secondary students, it was determined we wanted to get to depth of knowledge of digital citizenship. The challenge was brought to Keegan to have the entire district completely Common Sense Media certified by using the Innovation Academy program as shown below.
It was important to become purposeful in our deployment of devices in the district. Before last year, the district had never had a planned obsolescence cycle for devices. We had some questions to ask our schools and ourselves:
We could not be happier with the outcomes so far. This year we were one of three districts nationwide to be selected as a Common Sense Showcase District. Also through meshing this strategy of intertwining digital citizenship with our planned obsolescence of device deployment, we have discovered a need. With the introduction of the App Store across many types of platforms, coupled with the push to cloud based solutions, our data is becoming fragmented across multiple systems. This is causing many districts throughout the nation to reflect and adjust their student data privacy workflows to meet the demand. We wanted to take this one step further with the introduction of an App Approval Tool. This tool, developed through our relationship with Microsoft and Common Sense Media, allows applications, websites, and hardware to be introduced by teachers. The newly entered solutions flow through a series of privacy rubrics as well as the vetting of the application or hardware (see below).
The result is a solution that gives clarity and transparency to our life-cycle adoption of hardware and software, tied to instructional strategies. This produces data that can help drive our decisions when a solution is working well and when we need to find a replacement aligned to a particular instructional use.
Still in its infancy, we hope to share this tool and many other best practices out as we develop our policies and practices around this adoption life-cycle. The development of the tool should be complete by February of this year, pushing both existing solutions and new solutions through as fast as our Privacy Committee and Tech Standards Committee can work through them. In addition, Keegan and I will be presenting this tool at ISTE this summer. Come and join us!