October 24, 2016

By Rob Dickson

 

The most effective professional development engages teams of teachers to focus on the needs of their students. The Strategic Plan we have outlined in Omaha Public Schools shows our commitment in providing constant growth for our teachers and staff. As the district has recently changed professional development models, we have also begun to infuse technology into these processes.

One example of how we have incorporated technology in professional development is how we deliver and leverage the Flexcat system. Typically, this system is used in the classroom. Classroom discussions today are generally full of classroom participation, with the usual attentive students doing most of the sharing, while those who are less attentive (or shy) are unwilling to participate in the larger setting. Smaller group discussions seem to increase student participation, as the comfort level and the number of opportunities arise.

These same scenarios happen with staff. What is so great about the Flexcat system for professional development is by using the remote control, the facilitator selects a pod and listens in on the dialogue within a specific group, monitoring the discussion group from a distance as they converse. The facilitator may then interject positive feedback, redirect the group, or merely assess teachers and staff skills and knowledge around the PD topic.

A recently introduced mobile app allows the facilitator’s own iOS device to act as the remote control. The app lets the facilitator control as many as 12 audio pods in a large room. This is significant in our case, especially when you think about having large group activities. They are able to broadcast, break teachers up in content levels, and have the ability to share their group out to others with management from their iPhone or iPad.

This is one of many examples of how Omaha Public Schools has embraced ed tech solutions to provide engaging, efficient experiences for our staff and students. The Flexcat provides that experience, and modeling it for teachers in their professional development encourages them to stretch in their classroom practice.

 

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Rob Dickson

Rob Dickson

Rob Dickson’s technical understanding of how technology should support student learning contributed to his previous district’s ranking among the top ten digital districts in the nation four of the past five years. Among Dickson’s accomplishments are leading the first VBlock cloud data center installation in K-12 education and advising many schools across the country on their technology planning and integration. Dickson was named to the 2014 “20 to Watch” list by NSBA for innovation and technology integration work. He was recently honored among the Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers for 2016. As the Executive Director of Information Management Systems, Dickson currently directs the instructional technology program and all of the technology infrastructure work for Omaha Public Schools

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