Here was the initial drawing:
Recently, I had a coworker of mine suggest I explain an infographic that I have posted several times. That infographic, shown below, is a 2014 visual representation of several meetings and brainstorm sessions. It represents change. Meaningful change has and always will begin at the individual level. For me, individually this represents organization; for you it might look like chaos.
The District has always had a Tech Standards Committee. It was a representation of Information Management Systems Team and Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. As we have progressed forward as a District both with the Strategic Plan and Technology, we wanted to expand representation. Currently this committee is busy overseeing the approval of Apps and Hardware processed through our new tool. As you can see by the connection to the Innovation Academy, the thought was to create an "innovation loop" that allows new tools to be introduced and provide a mechinism for effectively vetting solutions in the classroom.
Professional Development is one of the most important supports a district invests in. We are producing life-long learners. We should as educators, parents, and community members model this self improvement throughout our walk. Initially the purpose of the cohort displayed above as the "Innovation Academy" was to provide the supports for our implementation of Office 365. As we have progressed, this cohort has expanded in members and the solutions we have introduced.
This term has now moved more towards "Innovation Librarians". I can't think of a more important role in the change effort to introduce project based learning activities, understand content, and the importance of inquiry in student learning. This video explains it perfectly:
Librarians are a central hub to every school. Movement to the Maker-space, 1:1 initiatives, and digital literacy all play an important part of libraries across the country.
As learning environments change, the need for systemic technology cycles for devices and other technologies becomes increasingly important. As digital equity becomes more important to all educational environments, the acquisition of technologies also becomes important. We started this process focusing on data. Introducing Brightbytes into this process was an important step to gather where we were at, and how to effectively measure where we want to go.
We are currently in Year 2 of our planned obsolescence of device strategy. In Year 1, we delivered Surface Pro tablets with wireless display adapters to every secondary teacher in the district. This year is focused on secondary students. Below is a Microsoft in Education video highlighting our Surface Pro initiative.
Year 3 and 4 will be focused on elementary schools. The emphasis of our "Innovation Acadmy" cohort will evolve into focusing on the importance of teaching digital responsibility, citizenship, and the creation of positive footprints online. This shared vision is meant to provide the necessary supports to transform classrooms and expand learning to make global connections, visualize data, expand inquiry, and engage students using technology.
I hope this post brings clarity to the infographic and an awareness to our initiatives here at Omaha Public Schools.
In today's world, we constantly create information. Whether posting something to social media, or watching our favorite Netflix show, we generate information at a high rate. Buzz words like Big Data, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence scour our landscape today. If you shop on Amazon like I do, you are provided with countless recommendations based upon your interests, clicks, and buying history. Much of this is what we want, there is a level of comfort knowing we can easily click and have something delivered in a couple of days. When we think about our kids, our students, and even ourselves - we need to be thoughtful of the digital footprint we are creating. This post isn't about compliance, but in the next section I will briefly discuss it.
When we talk about data privacy from a district perspective, most of the time it is aligned with compliance. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of personally identifiable information from student education records. This as well as other data privacy protected initiatives such as:
Personal Data - My Example
Now let's take a look at my family. This picture, shown above, was around 4-5 years ago in Kansas. This picture was taken as I was walking down the hallway and noticed everyone on devices, with the exception of our dog MJ. If you notice, everyone is engaged. Engaged with social media, the cloud, and even engaged with each other. I do remember Emily (far left) was playing "Words With Friends" with Aiyana (just to her right). I am sure this type of picture is common among families across the country. We document our lives via social media on a daily basis:
With this type of exponential growth, we need to think about our digital footprint and the story that is being told. On one side, digital citizenship is extremely important. If your digital footprint isn't a positive one, you could lose opportunities for future careers and post secondary admittance. This outlines just the personal data that is generated by our use of technology. Let's talk now about the business and enterprise landscape.
A Changing Enterprise Environment
Gone are the days of on-premise solutions and collaborating while you are in the office. In today's world, we increasingly integrate our office work with our mobile devices, extending outside of our offices as well as our work day. Businesses that have shifted to the cloud are now looking at a new landscape, the multi-cloud. In this article below as a study done by Microsoft, "nearly a third of organizations work with four or more cloud vendors."
This produces several challenges. First of all, how do we secure the data, and secondly, how do we keep data "sprawl" from happening. Below is a graphic of our current environment at Omaha Public Schools. As you can see, it is becoming increasingly complicated. It is important to note, many solutions don't require student data outside of the typical directory information outlined in FERPA. But over time, data that is generated can be identifiable and become necessary to protect.
As this environment becomes more complicated, we are putting things into place that will ensure the data privacy recommendations we want to enforce. First, in a previous blog post, I outlined our creation of an App Approval Tool. This process gives the ability to vet an app both for data privacy and security, as well as instructional use. Secondly, we have put together a Student Data Privacy Agreement that is being implemented with each of our cloud providers and outlines our expectations for data privacy through their system.
Our work through these measures will continue to evolve as we adopt and create meaningful experiences through the use of technology for our students.
I love information. I am an information junkie at best. I am writing this blog post as if LifeHacker invited me to share in their section "This Is How I Work". Enjoy.
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Current Position: Executive Director
One word that best describes how you work:
Current mobile device: iPhone 7 Plus
Current Computer: Surface Pro 4
First of all, let me tell you a little about my background and how I got to where I am today.
I love what I do. From the moment I understood what goals I wanted to accomplish, it was clear what paths I should take. I didn't always understand technology nor did I grow up with it; it wasn't until I entered the military at age 18 when I was first introduced to networking and computing. At that time, I began building my passion for life long learning; technology is a great vehicle to get there. I have been fortunate enough to have been involved with technology audits for various K-12 institutions through work with GreyED Solutions, Gates Foundation, and BleGroup. These opportunities have broadened my knowledge on how educational organizations change or resist change.
What apps, software, tools can't you live without? Why?
My daily work is in OneNote; this is where I dump and organize all of my work. I consider myself a creative process engineer (I say "engineer" simply to make it sound better). OneNote houses the articles I snip, using the OneNote Clipper, and also houses my notes from every meeting I encounter. I haven't always used OneNote. Previously, I utilized Evernote religiously; I still love the insights it brings in at the bottom of the note that aligns it to other notes or articles I have clipped. I hope OneNote adds a similar feature as well as top level management of OneNote notebooks. Search has become my friend for organization.
Sway has become a favorite as well. Gone are my days of PowerPoint slides exported to JPGs so I can post them to a site for visual artifacts. Now, I can build the entire presentation in Sway, embed into a webpage with all types of devices supported. Another important tool I keep on the desktop is the Microsoft Garage Snip tool to annotate and clip screenshots.
Lastly, since I read countless articles, I use Flipboard. Flipboard understands my interests and brings me a set of articles that fit those interests. It saves a ton of time and integrates well with my social media interfaces.
What's your workspace setup like?
My office has two places I function from:
My home is less complex. It consists of the breakfast nook, cup of coffee, and my Surface Pro 4.
I haven't always been a PC guy, though. I sported a Mac since the black Powerbook G3 days. However, in the last 3 years, this has changed. I started to see the importance of digital inking, both in my daily work with OneNote and as Windows 10 was introduced. I now consider digital inking a non-negotiable in my computing device requirement.
What's your best time-saving shortcut life hack?
I love where location based awareness is going. Siri reminds me of things I need before leaving the house. This keeps me from forgetting items otherwise I would be turning around for.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
At this time, I would have to say Amazon Echo with Alexa. She plays music, she sets timers for the oven, and most of the time she answers many questions I have added skills for. I see this type of technology in the future bringing efficiency in the home. I have recently purchased an Ecoobee3 thermostat that can be connected to Alexa. The future is going to be cool, like Star Trek cool.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
I am best at making connections - connections to people, connections between solutions, or a combination of the two. Connections has contributed to us creating solutions for our users and partners like Microsoft. Feeling connected as a team, we are able to bring more to the end user.
What do you listen to while you work?
This one is hard. I love all kinds of music. But here is a list in order of the genre's I love:
What are you currently reading? What’s something you’d recommend?
Just finished UnCommon Learning by Eric Sheninger. This book outlines how to transform a learning culture through sustainable and innovative initiatives. It moves straight to the heart of using innovations such as Makerspaces, Blended Learning and Microcredentials. I would recommend it as well as Launch: Design Thinking. Both of these books introduce different initiatives effecting K-12 education today. I like to go through books with someone else. This introduces accountability but also increases reflection.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
I love basketball. In March, the madness begins. The NCAA tournament allows me to focus on things that have nothing to do with work yet introduces fun stress. I think you have to have stress, it makes you grow as a person. Risk is important. I got the opportunity recently to hear Joe Maddon, coach of the World Series Champion Cubs speak. I took this video from my iPhone and here is what he said about risk:
What did I get out of this? You gotta be a little crazy and definitely fearless.
What’s your sleep routine like? Are you a night owl or early-riser?
I love my everyday process. I get up at 4:30, workout, then read articles for 15-20 minutes. The workout gets my mind refreshed and ready for my day, and the articles bring reflection to my daily walk. I also get to bed during the week early, 8:30. This daily process keeps my mind clear and ready to tackle the challenges brought to me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don't take work too seriously. I have worked and modeled much of my leadership from Mr. Evans for 12 years. He does a great job of being approachable and consistent.
I would give the same advice but with this addition:
Don't take life too seriously, and be willing to take some risks. You will feel like life is more fulfilling by taking those risks.
The Decision Between Collaboration Platforms
In today’s world, we operate as a society outside of the walls of our schools, our businesses, and our homes. The access to mobile devices has expanded our social and professional lives, many times blurring the lines between work and home. Technology has been front of state in the lives of students born between 1982 and 2002. Skills such as the swipe, selfie, and snapping are being trained with our daily use of social media. Per the Center for Digital Education, “62% of working Americans use the internet as an integral part of their jobs. And nearly all industries today require at least some on-the-job interaction with a digital device – including sectors the general public often doesn’t consider technology dependent.” It is no surprise, then, when it comes to selecting a cloud based platform, we need to keep mobile first in mind.
In my first couple of months entering the district, it was clear selecting a cloud platform was the first step needed to mirror the environment and data outlined above. In my previous district, we had used Google Apps for Education for years. The rest of the districts around Nebraska widely use Google as well, so it seemed like this would be an easy decision, right? There are really two major players in the district cloud category, Google and Microsoft. In the end, we selected Microsoft, and the rest of this post will discuss the “why”.
Building a Set of Requirements
In the last 3 to 4 years, the district has been no stranger to large initiatives. As a result of creating a 5 year Strategic Plan, coupled with passing the largest bond issue in Nebraska history, large initiatives are common place. It was important to include future requirements in this changing landscape, as it was clear Omaha Public Schools would be a changing dynamic for years to come.
The first requirement is safety and security as it is foundational for student learning. When defining this requirement, it was important to understand what types of inquiries happen in a large, urban district. To follow are questions we thought of when determining what safety and security requirements were of upmost importance:
Another important requirement was collaboration. In today’s world, collaboration is everything. Historically, there were tons of meetings; sometimes meetings to plan meetings. A great collaboration platform allows for flexibility to communicate and work synchronously and asynchronously, continuously. This allows work to continue, not being limited to input from a point in time meeting. As a result, solutions such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are becoming increasingly popular. In addition, Skype in the Classroom has become an innovative way to expand student experiences outside of the traditional classroom walls. Skype in the Classroom enables:
These groups can be organic or federated. The Azure Active Directory environment allows us to sync our groups from on premise Active Directory into our cloud environment. This type of federation allows us to flow identities across different platforms, on premise and in the cloud. This is just one example of Modern Group use. Many tools in Office 365 use this foundation as well:
Once requirements were determined, we needed to create an implementation plan. When moving to Google Apps or Office 365, a vendor partner can assist in the process. In our situation, Microsoft had just released a new plan called FastTrack. FastTrack allowed us to work with Microsoft on an accelerated plan for rolling out Office 365. You can read more about that program here:
An important piece of implementation was professional development. In my previous blog post, I outlined our Microsoft Innovative Educator Cohort. Helen Gooch, a Microsoft Fellow, was introduced to us as a resource for how we could approach the sessions in a gradual release model, as to not overwhelm our cohort. Our instructional technology team has taken this program to new levels in the last couple of years.
One of my key learnings when implementing Google Apps in Andover, was to not roll out an email client. Keeping everyone in web email was not a popular one initially; everyone was used to a client with on-premise solution FirstClass. The reason to keep everyone in the web client was to keep the Office 365 suite front and center in everyone’s experience. If one were to spend all day in a full client, they would not notice Sway, OneNote, Sites, Forms, PowerBi or OneDrive. Not only would they fail to notice these tools, but because of single sign-on with Azure AD, they would be less likely to recognize other platforms integrated into the waffle as well.
Building Processes and Tools
Early on in implementation, was the need to build workflows and tools. Instead of using FastTrack dollars to migrate email, we used them to build SharePoint Online Sites. These sites provided the needed intranet and added workflows that were previously paper based. One of the initiatives we were tasked with was building a coaching tool. We started this process with Microsoft Consulting in April 2015, and through our work with them, chose a product called PowerBi that would later be introduced to general availability in July, 2015. This tool allows Principals, Academic Coaches, Instructional Facilitators, and District Leadership to facilitate walkthroughs that produce data for coaching feedback. The online forms were customized to our Best Instructional Practices Handbook, providing the necessary common language that greatly assisted in its adoption. Also, we introduced the ability to insert artifacts into the tool such as pictures, video, and attachments. It aligned well with our implementation of Surface Pro tablets to secondary staff the same year. In the first year, the district produced over 23,000 coaching visits (see below).
This year, we continue to evolve the tool to meet the needs of our Curriculum and Instructional Support Staff. Recently, we redefined the dashboard as a result of feedback over the course of the last couple of semesters utilizing the tool. As a result, use has increased immensely. In just over half of the year, we produced nearly as many coaching visits as all of last year.
This is one example of producing effective tools to meet the needs of the classroom. Another example is outlined in a previous blog post about App and Hardware Lifecycle Management.
These tools have expanded our use of Office 365 and have brought purpose of our use to a new level. Moving forward, we will continue to expand these uses and present them in the web portal as “tile” experiences in the waffle.
These posts are personal. They are not reflective of the Omaha Public Schools District.