At the core of every change initiative is the desire to breathe new life into the organization―to revitalize ways of thinking, behaving, and working. Nearly four years ago, Mr. Mark A. Evans was brought in as Superintendent of Omaha Public Schools (OPS) to institute change processes that resulted from a needs assessment.
This led to the creation of a five-year strategic plan as well as passing the largest bond issue in Nebraska history. Technology was set as a priority because the district hadn’t focused in this area previously. Professional development and planned obsolescence for devices were outlined in the strategic plan as prioritized strategies.
To help make the change as smooth as possible, OPS placed an emphasis on digital citizenship through professional learning, as well as the development of a new device deployment strategy and an innovative App Approval Tool.
Here’s how we did it.
The Position Shift
For nearly a decade, the district has partnered with Common Sense Media to support a half-time position funded through the Sherwood Foundation, a philanthropic organization, that provided some form of digital citizenship functions for the district and the state.
To meet the strategic plan’s priorities, the district decided that the position of lead teacher of digital citizenship would move from the Curriculum and Instruction Support to Information Management Services. This move would also expand the position to full-time and house it under the instructional technology umbrella.
The importance of this position to our initiatives was so great that it is also the only position in instructional technology that I personally supervise. It is a great fit for the district, since we were beginning to introduce 21st century skills into our Best Instructional Practices Handbook. Keegan Korf was selected as lead teacher and has done a remarkable job at defining much of this plan moving forward.
In October 2014, the district implemented Microsoft Office 365 as a collaboration platform and in the process created a unique relationship in their fast-track and early-adopter programs. Through this relationship, Innovation Facilitator Eileen Heller (see above) and User Support Coordinator Connie Wickham (also above) worked on creating an Innovation Academy with initial cohort of around 100 educators throughout the district. In the second year, the cohort added another 100 educators. The cohort was further enhanced by leadership from Wendy Loewenstein.