With ISTE behind us, it’s fun to reflect on the event that it was. You knew it was going to be big when Richard Culatta shared that registrations for ISTE had reached over 21,000. ISTE always brings together thousands of teachers, all trying to find the latest news, gadgets and education tips. This is what I love about ISTE. It is about teachers. If you want to speak with educators, hear their pain, and show them how EdTech can ease that pain and benefit students, then ISTE is the place to be. San Antonio was a great host. Arriving Saturday after a long journey of circling around in airports, because of weather, and eventually renting a van and driving, we made it in time to catch a ball game. The minor league team put on quite a show. Kudos to San Antonio!
Share. Share. Share.
This year was amazing. In all the years participating at ISTE (I have been attending since the NECC days), I have never been a part of a team that presented so much. Overall, we participated in 11 presentations or panels. We have a lot to share at Omaha Public Schools. Districts and schools listened. The transformation our district has been through the last 4 years, with the introduction of Mark Evans as Superintendent, has been systemic. When systemic change happens, it flows through every area of the district; this was evident in our presentations at ISTE.
The leadership strand I was a part of Sunday, with some amazing district leaders, delivered to a jam packed room of new members on how to navigate the ISTE Conference. In the other sessions we presented on, from our App Approval tool to our work on Microsoft Teams, we discussed the influence these tools have had on us and, at least for our Microsoft relationship, the difference it is making for educators around the world. I want to throw a shout out to Keegan Korf for presenting her heart out in the Ignite Session about how we as educators need to approach social media for the good; when done correctly, social media can be powerful in all the right ways. I am super proud of her. Keegan brings great qualities to a need across education: empathy. Even though I deny it, she has a personality that rubs off on people, even this guy. Producing positive digital footprints are important for everyone, and she is teaching us the way.
What a rush. Such an honor. To be able to share what we are doing with Teams in #HackTheClassroom was a surreal experience. Time flew by. It is amazing how Microsoft is putting an incredible focus in the area of education over the last few years. Teams is an incredible way to engage students and staff in a different way; the way we communicate today. Informal. Instant. It is important as educators to model and scaffold this to students today. Teams does that.
I want to give a couple more shout outs. First, to Kelly Means. Kelly is the go to person that I depend on to bring focus for our Planned Obsolescence of Devices strategy to our secondary teachers. She is pictured above and has also been instrumental in bringing purpose to Teams in that implementation to the classroom. Second, is to Eileen Heller, also pictured above. Eileen is the glue to making the ideas that come out of Omaha Public Schools and Microsoft work. She connects the dots. OPS would not be in its current progression through the workflow of change, around the purpose of devices and the matching environment of Microsoft Teams, without these two. They are professional and organized in their approach. I appreciate that.
I absolutely love my team at Omaha Public Schools. I am fortunate to be supported by leadership and my peers (above). This year, I was presented with the 2017 ISTE PLN Administrator Award. It has been an unbelievable experience so far here at Omaha Public Schools. Our team is outstanding. That is why I feel this award is a reflection of us - the OPS Tech Team. Only time will tell the impact we will have on the learning experience of 52,000 students in the Omaha area. I can tell you, in my 3 years since coming here, we are getting there quickly. It takes a village. I can only do what we do as a collective. Omaha Public Schools will be a progressive learning experience in the future. Technology will always be how we get there. Every Student. Every Day. Prepared For Success.
To an EdTech, the ISTE conference is the biggest and best there is. The annual conference serves as a place for exploring and exchanging ideas about education technology with educators from around the world. Each year the venue changes; this year being hosted in San Antonio. I can't remember my first time going to ISTE, but it has been quite a few years. There has been a progression to the flow to how I approached ISTE as a participant, leader, and presenter.
This year is a real highlight for me personally. I have the great pleasure of working with some amazing staff here at Omaha Public Schools. Over the course of the last 3-4 years, we have been in constant transformation. One of the great outcomes of this transformation has been about telling our story. Books like BrandED, Learning Transformed, and Innovator's Mindset tell much of the importance of storytelling and it's impact now in our current educational climate. Especially today in public education, if you aren't telling your story, someone else will.
As you can see above, we are very present at ISTE this year. OPS has incredible talent and we are sharing many of our ideas at ISTE. That is one thing I love about education, we share freely among one another. We are synced on our purpose, and that purpose is what's best for students. Preparing students for what the future brings, that is part of the promise of great education. ISTE does a great job of showing the best practices of integrating technology and aligning them to sound standards that are common language for teachers.
As of this morning, there are even more presentations we are a part of that aren't listed above. For me, this is a time of celebrating the year end and reflecting on what is needed moving forward. Much of our efforts have been in collaboration with Microsoft. This year we are sharing our work with them around Microsoft Teams with Classroom and PLC integration.
Hack the Classroom is an exciting, online, live event designed to show you what’s possible and ignite new ideas. Last year one of my colleagues and long time friend Dyane Smokorowski spoke at #HackTheClassroom on Skype and it's effectiveness in bringing experiences outside of traditional boundaries to students. This year, Omaha Public Schools gets to share our collaboration with them around Teams. Eileen Heller and Kelly Means will participate with me in a Q & A session around Teams.
You can register for #HackTheClassroom by visiting here:
The Center for Digital Education is a great resource for districts of any size across the nation. Over the course of the last three years, Omaha Public Schools have used multiple resources from within the Center to assist in our transformation. The Center has many sessions outlined above and one that I would like to highlight since I will be participating in:
Digital Districts: A National Perspective
10:00 – 11:00am
Convention Center - Room 220
As technology changes, society has changed with it. Social media and technology together are making a lasting impact on our youth. Districts must respond to these changes with thoughtful planning to align necessary technologies with instructional goals to support teaching and learning. The Future Ready Framework provides great resources to do just that. If you would like more information, go to Tom Murray's session at ISTE, it will be a great one:
What does it take to become Future Ready?
Tuesday, June 27, 2:45–3:45 pm
First, don't try to consume too much. Keep it simple. Take 3 important initiatives or ideas back to your district. Second, take notes. If you are a leader, incorporate a plan for your team to collaborate in something like OneNote. As a team, tackle the exhibit hall strategically. Otherwise, you will end up spending too much time there and not enough in sesssions. Below are examples our our OneNote collaboration in events like ISTE.
"Now listen to a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside down. I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there....... by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Listen up. The world is still flat. Thomas Friedman was right back in 2004. Technology is disrupting geographical boundaries for us all. For example, I currently live in Nebraska and bank at Bank of America. There isn't even a Bank of America within three hours of my house. That doesn't stop my access to money or my ability to pay my bills. Technology is the enabler. It doesn't stop there. Look at the iPod on the left. Steve Jobs said "What if you could hold 1000 songs in your pocket?" It sold me and millions of others.
Although the iPod itself was not disruptive, the iPod/iTunes combination provided the means for attaining and consuming music differently. This was globally disruptive. Today Apple Music, which is an evolution from the single song/album purchase model to now a subscription model, has reached more than 100 countries. It changes how we interact and consume music as a society.
The thought of conversation has changed because of technology. Social media and the introduction of smart phones have affected all of our lives. Just think about it for a second, how has your "circle of influence" changed because of social media? I know personally, I keep up with old and new friends, distant and close relatives, through multiple social media channels. It doesn't matter what the geographical boundaries are, many times we have constant communication through Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and Instagram. I also have three teenage daughters that I interact with on social media. Social media isn't simply a way of life for our kids -- it's life itself. Our kids are swiping and scrolling, totally transfixed by screens of all sizes. Many times we introduce them for all the right reasons, to keep in touch with them and give a level of security. Welcome to the new frontier of digital parenting.
Understanding Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy are so important with this influx of mobile devices and mediums, such as social media, to our kids. In Omaha Public Schools, we have made it a priority to make sure we are putting our best foot forward in providing curriculum and practice around these strategies. Keegan Korf, Lead Teacher of Digital Citizenship, works directly with our schools as we roll out devices to our schools to bring purpose to this initiative. I can't wait until our mobile learning unit gets completed to do community engagement work around digital citizenship and literacy...but that's a whole other post, altogether. I am so proud of the efforts of our district and receiving Common Sense Media District Level Certification for the first time this year.
A direct effect of utilizing technology to communicate and operate as an individual, family unit, business, or school district, our "circle of influence" is massive now. We are a part of a global community whether we like it or not. We can choose to accept it, and take advantage of it, or deny it and deny the future it promises individually, as a family, or to our community. Every time we post to twitter for example, we have to understand that it has the potential to be viewed by anyone, anywhere, on just about any connected device. Next, I am going to discuss how we can be purposeful in taking advantage of all of this to bring learning experiences to another level for our students.
Boundless Opportunities in the Classroom
There are times when I wish I had access to this kind of technology experience when I was in school. Tools such as Skype in the Classroom bring experiences beyond the classroom walls into direct interaction with students. These can be virtual visits to museums, mystery skype sessions (my favorite), and great avenues for project based learning activities. My dear friend Dyane Smokorowski first introduced me to the power of this medium when in my previous district. We did a passion project that produced raising books for an African village and in return decorated our library with amazing African art. The commitment in that project made true connections between children and their world and it took a community to make it happen. Technology facilitates an opportunity to alter how children perceive their world and to leverage this tool takes community effort. Recently I was given the opportunity to mystery skype with my Partnership 4 Kids mentor classrooms while I was in New York City. I loved being able to interact with those kids and I miss them already since school is out.
Below are two great examples of bringing opportunities for amazing global collaboration through Skype. The first one was developed by our own Eileen Heller. Recently we read the book LAUNCH, which introduces design thinking strategies so that students define themselves as makers, inventors and creators. Special kudos to Eileen for making this possible.
The more I read books like BrandED, the more I think storytelling is important in education. It is important for our students, our staff, our leadership. Telling our story and understanding how to build the story stands the test of time for our knowledge delivery. The Global Goals Skype Collaboration brings that to purpose in your classroom. By building the classroom poster, or collaborating with a classroom abroad, you are exposing your students to cultural awareness and going beyond the geographical boundaries that we have always seen as barriers.
Lastly, lets talk about purpose. The new ISTE Standards give great indicators for teachers to effectively align these activities to outcomes. These standards promote Future Ready Learning. "The ISTE Standards for Students are designed to empower student voice and ensure that learning is a student-driven process of exploration, creativity and discovery no matter where they or their teachers are in the thoughtful integration of ed tech."
In the upcoming days, you can see a guest post I wrote on EdTech Magazine's website. The post focuses on my thoughts around Windows 10 S and what it can provide education. When writing the post, I came up with two factors that I considered to be key: time and opportunity. In this weeks blog, I'd like to expand upon the notions of time and opportunity with the use of technology in education.
As an airman in the Air Force, I recall being a part of a special class that attend airman leadership school and studied Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I remember the instructor bringing a jar onto the table and referencing how we use time. The analogy for the effective use of time was demonstrated by first placing large rocks into a jar before adding pebbles, sand and water. By doing so, everything can fit in the jar; on the other hand, if you start by filling the jar with the small things (pebbles, sand and water), there isn't room for the big rocks. This simple illustration stood in my head for many years as to how to use time wisely by attending first to the most important tasks, and so forth.
So, if time is so precious and you can't add more, is there a way to do more with the same amount of time? Think about it. The Amazon shopping experience is something that’s relatively new, but it has dramatically altered the way that we browse, purchase and receive products. I have been a member of Amazon Prime for 7 years now. Gradually, as I have learned "the ropes" of online shopping, I have done more and more of our family's shopping through that route. The time savings are massive. This is just one example of how technology adds time. Look at Netflix. At first, we relied on traditional cable when watching television and used Netflix for the occasional movie. Over time, we have moved completely off traditional cable and stream our shows via Direct TV Now and Netflix. The time savings are huge compared to the old days of Blockbuster and Redbox. The conveniences that technology brings are incredible. The introduction of the smartphone has changed how we interact. We use our phones to check into flights, wake up in the mornings and take pictures that we store in the cloud without the care of changing out and developing film.
But Rob, you ask, how does this pertain to education? Every time I talk to a teacher that is reluctant to embrace technology in the classroom, I ask "What if we could save you 15 minutes out of your day? Would that be enough for you to at least be interested?" If you asked every teacher in public schools today, “What do you wish you had more of?”, their answer would be: Time. This can come in the form of self grading quizzes, engaging parents via social media instead of face to face or phone calls and accessing information on any device via the cloud instead of staying late in the classroom. This is just the start. With blended learning, personalization of content to students can bring differentiation efficiency so that you aren't killing yourself trying to engage every student on an ongoing basis. Believe me though when I say, technology will never replace a good teacher, it will just increase their capabilities to provide a great learning experience to our students.
Opportunity is defined as the set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. I am starting to read the book "Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today" by Tom Murray and Eric Sheninger. In the book, one sentence stands out when discussing opportunity:
I have three daughters in the education system right now. They span from high school to college. One of the things I hope for as a parent is that I instill in them the desire to find out what they love to do and go after it. They will always be rewarded with purpose if they do.
So how does technology bring opportunity? Well, that can be a double edged sword. Technology can bring exponential opportunity, both good and bad. The importance of teaching digital citizenship and digital literacy are increasing as each year progresses. Many times, we focus on the negative: cyber-bullying, sexting, identity theft, etc. Technology is changing our industries, as you recall above, in the section time. We Uber now instead of taking taxis, video chat using FaceTime or Skype instead of traditional calling; the list goes on and on. As a result, most industries are changing with the introduction of automation. Many of the jobs we think of today won't exist in the next decade or two.
We should be increasing opportunity for our students by introducing those skills that make them adaptable to this ever changing environment. Introducing those 4Cs:
The promises of technology are that it can provide teachers and students both time and opportunity. If you have ever been in a full classroom that is immersed in technology devices, speed is a huge time factor in classroom management. Opportunity arises when you can both control the apps being installed, and deliver the cloud promise of working across devices seamlessly, without hindering time. Classroom spaces can be transformed and increased opportunities for those 4Cs to be introduced to students can happen more frequently. The future looks promising, too. With the introduction of augmented and virtual reality, we can bring experiences outside of the classroom, in. Today we get to embark on real time experiences with Skype in the Classroom; tomorrow you will be able to explore incredible content through these high engaging technologies that show content via an inexpensive headset.
Telling Our Story
This week, along with Wendy Loewenstein and Eileen Heller, I decided to take on the book BrandED. It fits the direction we are moving in Omaha Public Schools around actively communicating our efforts and is a great read for education leaders out there. For me personally, it was a good follow up to Eric Sheninger's Digital Leadership. BrandED starts with three foundational elements: an image, a promise, and a result. From there, you begin to build your personal brand as you develop your school brand. Through the BrandED Strategic Plan, drivers are introduced to make sure you are efficient, and in constant clarity with ongoing transparency.
Here are my personal elements:
Some of these were through reflection during reading the book, and many of them are what I have inherited from the leadership of Mark Evans.
Through our journey here in Omaha Public Schools, we have been under constant transformation. We represent the largest district in the Cornhusker state. As part of a five-year strategic plan, we passed a $421 million bond issue—the largest in state history—to further prioritize our commitment to transformation. Just this week, we came together bringing all of our school leaders to reflect on the year coming to a close.
Willie Barney, Director of the Empowerment Network, gave a power talk about what we have done. Closing the achievement gap across our poverty areas and creating partnerships in community and philanthropic avenues, we are clearly putting students first. At one point, Willie said "Now everybody get up". We said, "We are strong! We are proud!" - those words were repeated by every leader in the room. The atmosphere was alive and energy was high.
Willie went on to show growth in areas of North Omaha where growth had been measured in several different outcomes since the Empowerment Network started 10 years ago. "Much of North Omaha had not been developed in 35 years" he said. For me, this was eye opening. I have lived in this community for 3 years now. What I have seen in the last 3 years is pretty significant.
But it isn't without challenges.
As can be seen above, we have many challenges; most large urban school districts deal with similar challenges. From my viewpoint, many of these are being approached with technology. Technology can be a powerful "how" if implemented correctly. For example, we are working with the transportation team to work on new ways to communicate to parents about the status of a bus using technology.
One critical problem we are tackling is how we handle calls. Last year, the transportation department had 3 different phone numbers:
We are also making significant progress. As Eric states in BrandED, "We have to do a better job of communicating what we do. We must be part of the exchange. It gives us the best chance at connecting with our audiences and winning support for schools." It is so important for us to communicate these achievements. Otherwise, someone else will.
We are setting records; succeeding and striving to do what's best for students. We are tackling challenges, innovating, and showing progress. One area I am super proud of is our virtual school. Omaha Virtual School is the first K-8 virtual school in the State of Nebraska. Next year we will introduce 9th grade. Much of this is through the leadership of Wendy. She is passionate about the blended environment we are building for our students. As we move forward, they will be a model for what blended looks like in Omaha Public Schools. We are strong. I am #OPSProud. Let's tell our story.