Passwords are everywhere! I have so many combinations, many times it is tough to remember which one is used for what app. We all have smartphones today and it compounds this, especially when a new iPhone comes out every year. We have all dealt with it. Is it with a 1 at the end or did I add a 2 now? Wait. Was that the one with the capital letter?
Thankfully, there are technologies out there that can help alleviate this struggle. Single Sign On and network technologies like Identity Services Engine allows for districts to work towards providing a great learning experience for staff and students. I have 4 main reasons for the adoption of these technologies.
#1 It is more secure
Do you know how many web sites on which you have an account? I do. It's over 120. Perhaps, you don't have as many as me, but it might seem like it. That is a lot of information to remember: usernames, email addresses used to register the account, passwords and maybe even the URL for the site. If you are like most online users, you may have just a handful of passwords that you use on several sites. While this makes remembering them easy, it is bad practice. In the last year, there have been several public attacks in which passwords were disclosed by the attackers. If the password you use across several sites was disclosed, an attacker might try to use it for one of your other accounts.
Introduce Single Sign on (SSO)
While it appears like a simple measure, single sign-on may dramatically reduce the amount of typing and tapping you do on a mobile phone. Now, when Mrs. Smith wants to read her mail using a web browser, she typically navigates to a webpage like https://www.office.com. For a federated Office 365 domain, Microsoft will not ask for a username and password to log in, but instead redirect the browser to the Identity Provider for authentication.
Where you would probably see this happen in your day to day is when you download a new app or sign up for the first time online to something. You might see these options in the sign up. This uses the same technology. No username and password are exchanged. The information is passed via a token. I want to keep this post as non-technical as possible so I won't get into how this happens.
#2 It saves time
On average, users take 5–20 seconds to log in to an online app. It can take longer if they mistype their username or password and are prompted to reenter them. With SSO in place, manually logging in to online services is avoided. These saved seconds reduce frustration and add up to increased productivity. On the left you see our Office 365 waffle. When we first implemented Office 365 in our district, it was important for user adoption to be high. So when we deployed, we didn't deploy the Office client. The web client requirement meant that users were constantly being exposed to a majority of what we offered. This increased the user adoption of many of the other programs besides the Office 365 suite since we used Clever and Azure AD authentication techniques. Then a SSO requirement for future app adoptions allowed us to insert those tiles in the waffle and giving the user a single experience while also auto rostering their students and classes in the solutions.
For those of you interested in implementing SSO in your district, the Center for Digital Education has a great resource below.
#3 It gives focus
Many districts struggle with implementing and sun-setting of software and data solutions. When a district is purposeful in connecting the dots of these solutions to provide best practice, many times when they are not seen as conjoined mostly because to the user they are disparate systems. The login, professional development, and how the app is presented make all the difference in the world to building the communications and story of support.
#4 It provides a different highway for information
Networks are evolving. We depend so much on them today. Network convergence is the efficient coexistence of telephone, video and data communication within a single network. The use of multiple communication modes on a single network offers convenience and flexibility that are not possible with separate infrastructures. The mediums are changing as well. We power devices over the wire now and wireless is becoming the end user experience standard for internet activity. Mobility is driving this.
In Omaha Public Schools, we are transitioning. Planned Obsolescence is driving more mobile devices as we adopt a mobile first strategy. As a result, our wireless needs to evolve to accommodate this.
In the diagram below, you can see that in the old wireless strategy, we presented different wireless IDs but technically were on the same network.
In the end, it is about learning. These things are back end technologies. Not seen. But implemented properly, will provide efficiencies in time, and present multiple solutions with clarity, all while being secure.
What you see day to day, social media, news, games. We are all connected. Mobile computing and the Internet is making this happen. As we progress down this technological path, it's important to look at what's next to see where we might bring purpose. Without purpose in these devices, we will find ourselves in the living room with everyone just looking at their smartphones. Does this ring a bell? Enter the world of immersive tech, augmented and virtual reality. Virtual reality isn't just a view master for your video games. It's an entirely new medium whose true purpose is slowly being realized.
Let Me Clarify. I'm Inexperienced In This Area.
Recently we were invited to the Microsoft Store in Kansas City to participate with Washburn University in some VR activities. It opened my eyes to some opportunities that I would have otherwise dismissed. I got to enter new active experiences with the VIVE, Oculus Rift, and the new Mixed Reality device from HP. Microsoft is making a hard push into the mixed reality segment with Windows 10 as the platform of choice. Many of these headsets are much cheaper than their VR counterparts. Prices are around $399.
Here were a couple of videos we took as a part of the experience
So Where Does This Fit In The Classroom?
How we currently test new programs and solutions in Omaha Public Schools is through our Compass Program Adoption. This is lead by Eileen Heller, and many of the tiles in Office 365 you see today have come from that. Microsoft Classroom, Teams, and ClassFlow are great examples of Compass projects that the district ended up adopting into the classroom.
This last year at ISTE, there was a session on VR that described this taxonomy as to how to approach it in lessons and learning experiences. Here is the link to that session. Special shoutout to Eileen for sharing this with me.
As you can see there are many ways to consume media through virtual reality and that might be the only aspect you can see. That was how I had been before I experienced it first hand. After going through climbing a wall, exploring the solar system, and even looking into the sun, content in this will be key. In this week's research after the visit I found that many classes have used VR tools to collaboratively construct architectural models, recreations of historic or natural sites and other spatial renderings. Instructors also have used VR technology to engage students in topics related to literature, history and economics by offering a deeply immersive sense of place and time, whether historic or evolving. It is our job as educators to seek an ever-expanding immersive landscape, where students engage with teachers and each other in transformative experiences through a wide spectrum of interactive resources. In this educational reality, VR has a definitive place of value.
Every year has it's challenges. This year is no different. This summer we have deployed devices to secondary schools, implemented a new communications system with automated workflows to address busing operations, began a year long process of upgrading our HR and Finance systems and updating buildings infrastructure with our phase one Bond Projects. These are great examples of ongoing change with technology occurring in Omaha Public Schools. As with any large district, there are always concerns around technology adoption:
Culture is a big ticket here. There is a saying “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch”. Culture is everything and to compete for talent, especially for teacher retention, districts need to have a clear sense of purpose and a set of shared values. Purpose and shared values not only needs to be communicated but also demonstrated by the behaviors of district leadership. One good example of this is how Superintendent Evans engages in social media and changed how the district approaches it.
Create An Innovation Ring
In an effort to create a vehicle for digital transformation, there were many identified strategies our district decided to tackle in the Strategic Plan. Here you can access the full Strategic Plan, but here were key areas that were focused around technology:
It can be a bit overwhelming when you see the extent of how these strategies can be in focus when you are in a large district. Systems create behaviors and this is important in a district because, as I say sometimes, district's do what they're organized to do. Imagine a Superintendent, or other District Leader, stands up, presents a vision, does a PowerPoint presentation or says, "We're going in a new direction!" Everybody sits there, nods their head, claps and then returns to their classrooms, schools, and offices. Back in the classroom, they do exactly what they were doing before they came to the meeting. When they come to work the next day, they do exactly what they normally do on that day based on what they have traditionally been taught. So, simply talking and casting vision doesn't change the direction of a district. Systems create behaviors because districts do what they're organized to do. To bring about actual change within a district, before launching a big vision or announcing the change, district leaders must sit down, look at the systems and ask the question, "What are the behaviors that need to change in order to move in the direction we need to move?" Then, the harder question is, "What systems are in place that are reinforcing the behaviors we need to change?" "What new systems could we put in place that will redirect the behaviors?" As wonderful as people are, as motivated and as committed as they are, people are creatures of habit. When we go to work and we get in a specific environment, that environment, sort of directs us into a certain task or a certain way of prioritizing what we do during the day. Can you see how this might happen in a classroom? So, how are we addressing these systems when it comes to technology in Omaha Public Schools? Below is an updated infographic that outlines our current systems that address many of those needs listed in the Strategic Plan and are meant to bring forth a long term culture shift.
In this post, I am going to focus on some key areas of the infographic:
The challenge in developing this innovation ring is anticipating the change. With the introduction of wearables, Internet of things, artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality, how is one to keep up? Society is shifting because of the introduction of these and I think it is our duty as life long learners to make sure we stay relevant to our students. What are we looking at in Omaha Public Schools?
Augmented and Virtual Reality
In the area of learning experiences, augmented and virtual reality bring about increased engagement. Wrap that around the popularity for gameification, and you get a recipe for purposeful learning. This means content needs to be curated to fit the environment as well as remain loyal to our learning standards and goals.
We are fortunate to have a great relationship with Microsoft. Through that partnership, we have been able to see the power of HoloLens as it pertains to student engagement. The above video is a great example of presenting to NETA participants what that experience looks like. These HoloLens units will be on our Mobile Learning Unit as seen below.
These and many other avenues for engaging young learners in technology are great, but it is important to note that we should make it purposeful. That is why the team, most of whom you see here, are instructional technology but play the role of mini project managers. It was important for me to do so to keep empathy involved in the user adoption process. They are my eyes and ears in the classroom, keep me well grounded and make sure purpose is instituted. We wouldn't be making the strides we are in Omaha Public Schools without their commitment and success in the initiatives outlined above and in our strategic plan. Do we have everything together? No, but I think we have a good foot forward to address technology as it evolves.
I chose to write about collaboration because of its increasing usage in our everyday space. Society is changing. My kids interact with a much larger circle of influence than I did growing up. Digital literacy and social media is an inseparable and powerful combination. Done correctly, this combination enhances the quality and efficiency of teaching, researching, learning, communicating, collaborating and creating. Technology is driving this impact on teaching and learning. For the intersection of social media and digital literacy to have the most impact, educators can't assume that students will embrace the idea because it's cool, digital and involves their mobile devices. Sure for the first moments, and I have seen it with each of my 3 girls, it engages them because its new. But the focus on the "shiny" doesn't last long with my girls, especially the youngest one, Bailey. They are an instant group in society. It is important for us to connect the dots. Schools adopt technology to build twenty-first-century skills such as critical thinking, global awareness, communication skills, information, digital literacy, productivity and creativity. Collaboration is the key mechanism by which all of these merge.
Types of Collaboration
Ever since Microsoft introduced OneNote Class Notebook and our work in helping Microsoft develop Professional Learning Communities in Modern Groups (see video below), I have thought of how we might look at management of collaboration differently.
As with OneNote Class Notebooks, OneNote Staff Notebooks is an app for Office365 that lets a principal or other school/district leader quickly set up a personal work space for every teacher, a content library for shared information and a collaboration space for everyone to collaborate—all within a single interface. With a Staff Notebook, administration and staff can save time, become more organized and collaborate more effectively. One of my favorite examples of this is how Pam Cohn, Executive Director for Secondary Schools, uses this to manage communication and collaboration with her several principals across the district.
When you look at collaboration in both the Class and Staff Notebook platform, you can broadcast information (one to many), you can fully collaborate (many to many), and you can work 1:1. OneNote Staff and Class Notebook offer these through an easy interface to distribute and manage content. This brings to my mind the idea if you manage content based upon how you collaborate, you might argue there is no need for the traditional file and folder structure day to day that you would see in a traditional file share. I think this is an excellent way of:
The other reason to manage content via OneNote instead of traditional file storage is the vast amount of content types that OneNote can reference or store. For example, OneNote integrates search features and indexing into a free form graphics and audio repository. I use it to search images (e.g., screen captures (BTW Snip for Windows 10 is amazing), embedded PDFs, pictures) for embedded text/content. If you have seen my notes I take in a session or meeting, you know I use digital inking pretty regularly. OneNote searches digital inking as text, yes, even my handwriting. It can replay audio concurrently with notes taken during the recording. The single most important feature for me personally is the free form work space and loose structure. Below are some very basic examples of free form notes I take as reflection from books.
Rob... You said this was about Microsoft Teams? Where does it fit in?
Think about email for a second. It is basically a digital representation of the formal letter. It contains an address, subject, body and signature. Now what do you use email for? What's going to happen to digital communication over the next five years? Will we still be weeding out unimportant messages and fishing through enormous email chains trying to find one pesky link to a business plan? Will we still battle to get to inbox zero (shout out to Keegan)? Email has mostly worn out its welcome.
That's where Microsoft Teams comes in. Think of authentic conversation. Look at the toolbar down below. It identifies the amount of different artifacts used today in our digital conversations.
Mix this conversation with real time collaboration, and dash a bit of provisioned identities via a school data sync, and you have a recipe for classroom learning in and out of the classroom walls.
It is really important to point out that digital literacy is a skill that is learned. It isn't something our new generations coming up already know. As we look at digital equity and access, continuous emphasis on digital citizenship and literacy are important. That is why I love Microsoft Teams to scaffold features and permissions as kids progress through their learning. From a tenant level, you can set specific permissions that inherit down to the end user. That is usual. But with Teams, the teacher has the ability to set his/her own permissions for the class for several features. This allows a greater personalized level of experience as the teacher assesses each classroom to their digital literacy abilities.
Teams also brings application rich integrations. Obviously OneNote is integrated since I discussed it from the beginning of this post. But moreover, there are many applications that can be integrated and connected to engage in this informal conversation model. For me, Teams is the next step. Will you make it your next step in classroom and team collaboration?
These posts are personal. They are not reflective of the Omaha Public Schools District.