This Would Be A First
We wanted to create something different. Mr. Evans and I had done this before; just in another state and district. For Mr. Evans, this would be his third successful virtual school. I have learned much from his experiences. This one would be a first for the State of Nebraska. How could we offer virtual schools in a state that didn't have verbiage? Where would we get the talent that could offer a great experience to students? We were about to find out.
The OPS Way
The Omaha Virtual School is led by Wendy Lowenstein, 2017 NSBA 20 to Watch recipient. During this first year, the Omaha Virtual School is open only to home-schooled students, providing a mix of face-to-face instruction and online lessons. That's how we designed it in our previous district, Andover. This time though, we weren't competing with 87 other virtual schools in the state, we were just competing with state verbiage that would restrict us. Nebraska is one of seven states in the US that doesn't offer legislative verbiage for virtual schools. But that wouldn't stop us. Students participating in Omaha Virtual Schools will be given a laptop so they can receive instruction primarily in their home. They’ll also be required to report in person once a week for face-to-face activities at the Metro Community College floor of the DoSpace, a flexible classroom space inside a high tech community library. Teachers are state-certified and employees of OPS, and the curriculum is aligned with Nebraska standards.
How Does This Change Learning?
Obviously the virtual school approach is different. It isn't completely online, nor is it the traditional brick and mortar face to face. It's blended. The goal is to create capacities at every grade level and every content area. At that moment, you have a knowledge owner in every area we teach in OPS, in day to day practice of blended learning.
The virtual school provides the mechanism for what blended learning best practices should look like. The Instructional Technology Team operates as the vehicle for professional development to get schools through the transformation of traditional instruction to blended learning. A mixture of Planned Obsolescence of Devices, Infrastructure Initiatives, and Digital Citizenship is sprinkled along the way to make sure it is successful.
What Does The Future Hold?
The goal of the Omaha Virtual School is to provide a new learning style, while also providing learning experiences to students we previously haven't served. Sometimes the verbiage of school choice gets a bad taste in the realm of educators, but this does just that. What if a student was at a magnet school that offered what was needed in that particular magnet theme, but didn't provide a class like Mandarin Chinese? If we could offer that course for that student while they still attended the magnet school, isn't that what's best for students? In the end, the goal is to provide the opportunities needed for students to succeed.