Boulder, Colo., Schools Help Teachers Integrate Technology into Lessons

Schools in the district are sharing $20 million in innovation funds, generating demand on how to merge computing into the curriculum.

by Amy Bounds, Daily Camera / July 31, 2018

(TNS) — Boulder Valley teachers sat on the floor Monday and programmed Dash robots to dance, spin, say short phrases and travel a geometric path.

As they worked, they shared ideas about how they could use the small robots in the coming school year, from math measurement lessons to programming them to give a tour of the giant Colorado map students create in social studies.

"My go-to comfort zone is not technology," said Christi Fetter, a fourth-grade teacher at Boulder's High Peaks Elementary. "I would never just order a robot like this. We get to play with them. It's not only fun, but you're always thinking about how to incorporate it in the curriculum."

The Boulder Valley School District hosted Innovate@BVSD, a two-day technology conference at Erie's Meadowlark PK-8 that included a mix of roundtable conversations, keynote speakers, panels, workshops and hands-on sessions.

About 160 teachers, most from Boulder Valley with a few from other districts and private schools, signed up for the conference, which ends Tuesday. The conference is free for Boulder Valley educators.

While the organizers brought in some outside experts for the conference, most of the presenters are district teachers.

"Teachers are helping to lead teachers," said Kelly Sain, Boulder Valley's educational technology director. "The whole point is to learn from each other."

Kim Becker, a science teacher at Lafayette's Centaurus High School, is giving a presentation on using technology to make curriculum more accessible to emerging bilingual students.

The conference, she said, is a good way to kick off the school year.

"It's about giving students the opportunity to create things and collaborate more," she said.

Along with class offerings, Monday's conference included a presentation by educators at schools a year after adding innovative spaces and furniture through Boulder Valley's $576.5 million bond issue approved in 2014.

Districtwide, schools are sharing $20 million in innovation money. Elementary schools receive $200,000, middle schools $400,000, K-8's $600,000 and high schools $800,000. The projects are staggered over multiple years.

So far, 14 schools have completed innovation projects. The next group, with 14 schools, is getting new spaces and furniture this summer.

On Tuesday, participants will have an opportunity to browse through a showcase of innovative student projects from the past school year, with teachers and students on hand to talk about the work.

"We have expert teachers and leaders who have really gone through the whole process," said Kiffany Lychock, Boulder Valley's innovation director. "They can showcase what's possible."

The conference also is taking advantage of Meadowlark's building, with building tours that allow teachers to see firsthand an innovative building design and flexible furniture.

Meadowlark, which opened as the district's first school in Erie in the fall of 2017, is one of four Boulder Valley schools that were designed to meet the learning needs of students in the 21st century.

On Monday, Cuningham Group Architecture project manager Kari-elin Mock and Meadowlark Principal Brent Caldwell talked about the school's design and led a tour through one of the school's multi-age learning communities.

Caldwell shared an example of how the teachers used double classrooms divided by easy-open center doors for a lesson on creating and passing a legislative bill.

About 80 students were divided into the House and the Senate, going into their "chambers" in the divided rooms to work on a bill separately and coming together in the full space to debate.

"That was what we designed this building to be able to do," he said.

©2018 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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