Learning by the Digits

Travis Allen, college student and ceo of ischool initiative, presents keynote address at BVSD DigiDay. Photo courtesy BVSD.

Talking with Kelly Sain, educational technology director for Boulder Valley School District, you conjure thoughts that the Internet was invented to be the most dynamic teaching tool ever.

That vision emerges because Ms. Sain and her team are channeling the power of digital tools and Internet access into the minds and hands of teachers and students in such an empowering way.

“Now that we have access to the Internet, we’re helping students shift from thinking of learning that is something that is delivered to me versus something that I can create and learn and be dynamic,” says Sain.

Digi Day

BVSD’s Digi Day, formally called Digital Innovative Learning Day, helps teachers learn how to use technology to enrich their classroom.

Collaboration time at Digi Day

Collaboration time at Digi Day

At the recent, third annual Digi Day, the round-robin of courses attracted just over 160 attendees, of which 130 are teachers or BVSD employees. Thirty were from outside the district.

This year keynote speaker, Travis Allen, student at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University and ceo of ischool initiative, set the stage by sharing lessons learned from his personal experience with technology in the classroom.

Allen “talks about how schools have to change the way they instruct to meet the digital needs of the students coming in. We shouldn’t put away devices at the door and we should allow those opportunities. He talked about all the different things that need to be in place in order for us to successfully talk with our teachers and students,” says Sain.

Choose Your Own Adventure

During Digi Day, nine individual sessions run at the same time and participants choose the session that best fits their need.

Learning session at Digi Day

Learning Session at Digi Day

Presenters are primarily from BVSD. Most have gone through 21st Century Cohort, a three year program that helps teachers couple instructional practices and digital tools. The teachers then share their new-found expertise.

Individual sessions ranged from “Blended Learning and Flipped Classrooms:  Differentiate and Make Learning Interactive” to “Integrating Innovative Practices in Your Classroom.”

“A lot of teachers come with a team from their school and divide up, go to different sessions, then share knowledge,” says Sain. Each session is followed by collaboration time where attendees talk about how to put what they learned into practice.

Don’t Turn It In, Publish It

One example of how the digital revolution is changing school is in the approach to the age-old learning task: book reports.

“A different way of doing a book report is by creating a movie that shows a lot about the characters, and then do a voice over and add special effects. What we see is our kids get much more engaged. We’ve even had a lot go a step further and do a google hangout or skype session and talk to the author and include that in the movie.

“It’s the idea that I don’t turn in that assignment to my teacher, I publish it. Then, the audience is much larger than just my teacher. When the student’s audience is larger than the classroom or the teacher, they know they have to produce a better final product,” says Sain.

What’s Next

BVSD will host a two day Digital Innovative Learning Festival in August. The idea, according to Sain, is to “set teachers up for success and allow them to think about how to use these tools to increase engagement, collaboration and creativity with students.”

For more on technology in Boulder Valley Schools, read our post, “Boulder Schools Embrace Digital Age.”

Photos courtesy Boulder Valley School District. ©2015 BVSD All rights reserved.


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