This week has been a big week. Interviews for a new Superintendent, approval of an $8 million purchase of devices, and let's not forget the bond initiatives. Successful technology implementation takes much more than just getting devices into the hands of students. Staff buy-in, quality training and ongoing support are all essential to creating a digital district here in Omaha Public Schools.
Start With Why
Everyday we see technology so frequently that we don’t even think of it as technology. It seems to be more accessible than ever before. With the proliferation of digital devices, we now have the ability to connect to the world anywhere at any time. Take for instance, Skype in the Classroom. You can choose to engage students in virtual field trips, participate in mystery Skype sessions, and work on Skype lessons. Skype lessons are an amazing opportunity for students to get connected with hundreds of global professionals and experts on a variety of topics.
When we decided to make these types of decisions for students here in Omaha, it was important to gather information and make it purposeful. It makes sense to start with empathy. We talked to teachers and students about what they needed. We didn’t ask what device they wanted. Many districts across the nation drive this decision making process from the top down.
However, choosing the right devices can be daunting. In our case, the district has made significant investments in IT infrastructure through the bond issue, but access to devices has been limited due to a lack of planned obsolescence strategy. No district in the land has succeeded with a full-on transformation to digital curriculum without first grappling with its “underbelly”— the network infrastructure that sustains 1-to-1 and bring-your-own device usage in the classroom.
To create a fair and equitable environment for all students, ask these questions before implementing new devices:
Omaha Public Schools hasn't had a district strategy before for the life cycle of devices. As you can see from the above infographic made by Kelly Means, this shows that over half of district devices are four years old or older. Also without a district life cycle plan, it becomes a school's leadership initiative whether to emphasize technology and its use or not. This makes a student's experience with technology circumstantial. How does that prepare them for the future?
The influence of Kelly Mean's leadership through this initiative was powerful. She brought a level of understanding that I could not provide. She brought institutional knowledge, content knowledge, and working relationships with school leaders that moved this initiative forward.
Also as a initial requirement for each building, and knowing digital citizenship/literacy had to be built at the teacher and student level, it was decided that as the influx of devices was introduced, we would require each building to become Common Sense Media Certified.
Build A Set Of Requirements
Below shows our process of information gathering. The Planned Obolescence interview group consisted of:
We designed the process so that there were several touch points with two interviews to make sure we gathered requirements for the classroom and gather a vision of where they wanted to be. Below are examples of our data gathering and how we organized it in OneNote.
After gathering the information we then used the monster wall on our floor to write the entire plan and quantify what the project scope would look like.
Professional development for teachers is critical to the successful use of technology to improve the quality of learning in the classroom. A spring 2015 survey by Samsung Electronics America and GfK found that:
Professional development should be an integral part of a school or district technology plan and should provide for ongoing and integrated technology training for teachers. Our process for this involved several layers:
As OPS moves down this digital direction, it is important to define and scaffold an approach to teaching and learning that fuses the tenets of rigorous and relevant instruction with an exceptional, discerning application of digital tools. Initially for us, this was the introduction of our new ecosystem, Office 365. As we move forward with access, this will continue to evolve with digital curriculum and content strategies. We should allow students to use the digital-age tools that they are using on a routine basis outside their walls, which is different than OPS has practiced, but the outcomes make student learning experiences more relevant and meaningful. Our Instructional Technology Team is pushing technology with purpose and aligned to our Best Instructional Practices Handbook, and which will help our students gain the 21st Century skills needed to compete in the real world.
Microsoft in Education Video on our Surface Pro Deployment
Another great resource is the Center for Digital Education. They have a great Guide to Devices whitepaper that is linked below.