St. Vrain Valley School District wins national tech award

Originally published in The Times-Call >>


St. Vrain Valley's partnership between instruction and the IT department in rolling out a one-to-one iPad initiative recently netted the school district a national award.

St. Vrain Valley is the first school district in Colorado to win the National Team Award from the Consortium for School Networking for the leadership team's impact on student learning with technology.

"It's really how we're using technology in the classroom," said Kahle Charles, St. Vrain Valley's executive director of curriculum. "We want students to apply the curriculum to real situations. That's what we're really striving for. All our devices are to that end."

St. Vrain Valley is in its fourth year of its four-year learning technology plan. The technology plan, funded through a 2012 mill levy override, allocated $2.2 million a year to give sixth- through 12th-grade students their own iPads.

In the fall, each elementary classroom also received a set of six iPads for students to share. Other elements of the plan include updates to computer labs, distributing Chromebook "carts" to schools that will serve as mobile computer labs and updates to classroom desktops.

With the technology rollout complete, the district next school year plans to start refreshing the devices.

Phasing in the distribution over four years gave time for teachers to attend professional development classes, district officials said. Along with classes, the district hired technology coaches to work in schools with teachers.

District officials say the data they've collected shows the coaches are moving from spending time showing teachers the basics of using the devices and to helping them develop lessons and strategies.

Charles said technology gives students access to knowledge and lets them collaborate on projects through software platforms, both in and out of school.

"Learning can take place all the time," he said.

Teachers also can add content through the district's learning management system, allowing students to access it at home so class time can be spent on deeper discussions or re-teaching those who need more help.

"It's more personalized," Charles said.

Also on the curriculum side, the district has spent the last four years developing computer science programming, including clubs and classes on cyber security.

Thanks to an $84,000 GenCyber grant, the district plans to offer a training session this summer for Colorado teachers on cyber security. The camp is from July 30 to Aug. 3.

The deadline for teachers to apply for the session is April 30.

Sixth-grader Chris Gonzalez works on his iPad issued by the St. Vrain Valley School District as his mother, Monica Zamora, looks on at Trail Ridge Middle School in Longmont in August 2014. (Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer)