Friday, September 8, 2017

Mobile Maker Kits | A Taste of Maker Education

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Learn-by-Doing Renaissance

Based on the amount of conversation and discussion surrounding the maker movement you would think that creating spaces in our schools for students to tinker, experiment, build, create, and collaborate is something new in K-12 education. It isn't. Many of us can recall attending shop, home economics, and ceramics classes. These were “learn by doing” classes; we were encouraged to design, prototype, iterate, and try again--regardless of whether it was a batch of Rice Krispie Treats, a napkin holder, or a ceramic ashtray (yes, ashtrays). The maker movement is not a fad but a renaissance; the rediscovery and reapplication of the once-popular "learning by doing" process. 

Experiencing the 5 Cs

Embedding maker education into our K-12 learning communities ensures students have equitable access to the tools, technology, and resources required to experience the 5 Cs- collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and community. To create equitable access to learn-by-doing experiences the Educational Technology (Ed Tech) and Library Advisory Council (LAC) teams secured funding to build a small fleet of Mobile Maker Kits (Kits) to be circulated to all BVSD schools. Funds from the 2016-17 Colorado State Libraries Grant were combined with Ed Tech contributions to create eight (8) Kits. 

A Taste of Maker Education

Conversations between Ed Tech’s Library Services group and movers and makers across the country helped us identify which tools and resources would give students and teachers a taste of maker education and learning experiences in science, engineering, art, coding/programming, math, mechanical design, design thinking, robotics, etc. Kit components include both instructables and do-it-yourself (DIY) components. Each Kit component was cataloged and barcoded so either the Kit as a whole could be checked out or individual Kit components could be checked out on an as needed basis. Each Kit is currently valued at ~$3,700. 

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We Have Always Been Makers

Kits were beta tested with teacher librarians at all grade levels for approximately 90 days between March and May 2017. Teacher librarians were selected as beta testers because they are uniquely positioned to lead the learn-by-doing renaissance:

"We have always been makers. Libraries have always been makerspaces. The tools change, but the core of who we are and what we do is the same. We are educators, enablers, equippers. We are a space to try new things, learn new things, and do new things. We are open doors and new opportunities. We are makers. We always have been. We always will be. Even when the terminology changes."
                      --SLJ, 2015

Teacher librarian beta testers collaborated with teachers to integrate Kit components into the curriculum and set up centers in libraries and classrooms for students and staff to play, explore, tinker, and create. To jump start teacher and student use of Kit components, Library Services created a Mobile Maker Kit Resources Symbaloo for quick access to applications, lesson ideas, and tutorials for each Kit component. Beta testers kept observation logs and documented their interactions with the Kits, e.g., what worked, what didn't, lesson ideas, epiphanies, photos, videos, and student and staff feedback. We have used this data to inform future tool selections and craft maker focused professional learning opportunities. 

Reserve A Mobile Maker Kit

Mobile Maker Kit packed.JPGBased on the very positive feedback from beta testers and the growing number of requests from schools for maker tools and resources (especially from schools using Innovation funds to create makerspaces), the Library Services and LAC teams agreed to expand the Mobile Maker Kit program. Library Services is creating approximately six (6) more Kits bringing the total number of Kits to fourteen (14). To borrow a Kit for your school please work with your teacher librarian and complete the steps outlined here. Ultimately, Ed Tech would like every school to have a Kit. Conversations are underway to secure additional funding to achieve this goal. 

Mackin Maker 

Library Services worked with BVSD’s Procurement group to partner with Mackin Maker to help any BVSD school quickly and economically acquire Kit components. Mackin is a K-12 library collection service provider and they recently created a maker division so they can offer maker education tools and resources as part of their collection services. Mackin Maker has our Kit component list and can acquire any or all of the tools with one purchase order. Mackin also includes barcodes and bibliographic records for every Kit component so, just like a book, they can be checked out to teachers and or students.

Next Steps

In addition to creating more Kits, we are also considering how to level Kit components for Elementary, Middle, and High school. Feedback from beta testers indicates that there are some Kit components that are not as applicable at certain grade levels. Library Services has become a maker test kitchen, researching and test driving maker education tools to determine grade level applicability. The ability to swap out Kit components based on the grade level requesting a Kit will ensure age and grade level aligned learning experiences.  

Finally, Ed Tech is collaborating with members of the Front Range maker community to develop a maker education course for BVSD educators that will demonstrate the benefits of hands-on, authentic problem solving experiences to develop skills and traits students will need to succeed in both their academic and professional lives, and best practices for seamlessly integrating making into instructional practices across all content areas.

Let the making begin!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Connected Learning

The beginning of a new school year is a great time to explore new and exciting learning opportunities for our students. For example, have you considered how you could break down the four walls of your classroom or learning space to invite in the world? Connected learning can facilitate and encourage important 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The following are some ways that you can start to welcome the outside world into your class(es):

Connecting with Experts via Google Hangouts
Is there an author your students could ask first-hand about their writing process or character development? What about a scientist working on real-life experiments or a politician engaging in current events? It is easy to invite guests to connect with your class via video conferencing - all you need is their email! Through Google Hangouts, students can interview experts, participate in virtual book clubs, and extend their learning beyond the classroom. For additional information on how to connect via Google Hangouts (aka Hangouts Meet), visit the G Suite Learning Center. 

We have a very special opportunity coming up to connect with an astronaut in space! Jack Fischer, a Centaurus High School graduate, is currently a part of the Expedition 51/52 crew that launched to the International Space Station in April 2017. Please check out his biography and follow him on Twitter (@Astro2fish). On August 31st, he will be answering questions from Centaurus High School students in real-time via a NASA downlink. You can watch the downlink in real-time on NASA TV or view a recording at a later date. This is a perfect follow-up opportunity after the historic solar eclipse that took place on August 21st!

Mystery Hangouts
Mystery Hangouts is a fun, engaging activity similar to Twenty Questions. Two classrooms video-chat with each other but do not reveal their individual locations. Before meeting online, both classes research facts about their own state and create clues about their location. Then, each class takes turns asking “yes” or “no”-type questions in a race to solve the mystery. To start connecting with other educators and set up a mystery hangout, visit the Mystery Hangout Google+ Community page.

Virtual Field Trips
There are many institutions and organizations that offer learning experiences to students for free or at a very low cost. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science offers distance learning opportunities for students of all ages through on-demand classes (Virtual Science Academy) and monthly Q&A sessions with a scientist (Scientists in Action).
Google Arts & Culture
Discovery Education Virtual Field Trips can take students all over the world, from the NBA headquarters to the tundra to the White House. Students can examine famous artwork and concert halls through Google Arts & Culture, and the Smithsonian Virtual Tour offers students the chance to experience the museums without paying hundreds of dollars for airline tickets. All of these field trips are compatible on standard devices, but Google Cardboard can really take it to the next level by immersing students in a virtual environment!

Is Twitter appropriate for classroom instruction? When used effectively, absolutely! One example: through Twitter and other social media, world language & bilingual classes can connect with in the target language countries instantaneously! In Lena Carroll’s Spanish class at Broomfield High School, students used Twitter to connect on a personal level with a famous Nobel Prize winner from Guatemala. Students can also develop virtual pen pals, honing their communication skills with an authentic audience. Interacting on social media also offers the perfect opportunity to engage students in conversations about digital citizenship and online safety.

Professional Development
Connected learning is also very powerful for professional development and collaboration among teachers. For example, there are many groups where teachers can share ideas, connect their classes, and continue their lifelong learning. Schoology houses many different groups separated by interest, content area, school, etc. This is a great way to connect and find new ideas! Similarly, Google+ communities and Voxer groups act as virtual meeting grounds for connected educators. A variety of education chats are hosted on Twitter, giving you the chance to chat in real time with educators around the globe! If you are interested in taking your professional development to the next level, check out our Online Collaboration and Connected Learning (OCCL) blended course that starts in January. Stay tuned for more information about how to enroll in MyPassport in the upcoming months.

With all of the options out there, students and teachers are able to connect like never before! How are you inviting the world into your learning space? Share your ideas below!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Welcome Back, #BVSD!

Welcome Back, #BVSD!

Welcome back! The BVSD Ed Tech Team is preparing for another awesome year full of new professional development opportunities, expanded programs, and more! For a taste of what’s to come and how to stay in touch, please keep reading. For easy access to all of Ed Tech’s resources, visit our homepage at

Ed Tech Professional Pathways

This year’s district professional development has changed to personalized learning. Ed Tech will offer three different courses for BVSD educators as part of the Professional Pathways program.
  • Digital Storytelling (MyPassport #16773) course participants will learn how to use different digital tools to increase student voice and students publishing for audiences outside their classroom.
  • Online Collaboration and Connected Learning (OCCL) (MyPassport #16774) course will open up connections and the four walls of your classroom. Learn how to use digital tools to connect students, experts and teachers in collaborative work.
  • Teacher Librarianship in the Future Ready Library (MyPassport #16775) highlighting connections & collaborations for being #FutureReady librarianship.

For information more Ed Tech Professional Development opportunities, visit our PD home page.

PD Special Events

colorado_2017_Web.pngThe 2017-18 school year will offer some large scale special events for those looking to broaden their Ed Tech horizons. Look for our poster throughout the district, and be sure to visit the BVSD Ed Tech home page for further details.

Google Apps for Education Colorado Summit featuring Ed Tech Team
Save the date for November 4-5 at Monarch High School for two jam-packed days designed to help you collaborate, connect, create using digital tools. Outstanding keynote speakers, peer created sessions, hands on workshops, and more await! BVSD employees: contact Elene Medicraft for a discount code! Click here for more details.

1:Web Expansion

1:Web is expanding to seven new schools! After a successful pilot program at Centaurus and Broomfield High Schools we will roll out the program to Angevine Middle, Arapahoe Ridge High, Aspen Creek K-8, Boulder Universal, Broomfield Heights Middle, Nederland Middle and High, and New Vista High. 1:Web schools will distribute chromebooks to students and teachers to have ubiquitous access to resources. Ed Tech, in collaboration with ISE (Instructional Services and Equity) and school 1:Web teams, will engage in PD throughout the year to support schools in this significant and exciting instructional shift. For more details, visit our 1:Web homepage.

Social Media

The Ed Tech Team wants to make it easy for you to stay in touch! We consistently update the following resources with important information and useful tips.

  • Join us on Twitter! Follow @BVSDEdTech for updates and interesting articles, people, and resources.

  • Follow BVSD Ed Tech on our Pinterest page for curated content related to makerspaces, libraries, literacy, leadership etc.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Are you planning on implementing new ed tech tools this year? Is your school participating in 1:Web? Share your big ed tech plans for the 2017-18 school year in the comments below!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Top ISTE 2017 Takeaways

Phew! ISTE 2017 has come and gone. We are reflecting on and digesting the amazing ideas and information we gathered throughout the four-day conference. Check out our top takeaways from the world’s largest Ed Tech gathering!

Think Outside the Box with Google Tools
BVSD students and employees have access to a powerful suite of Google tools. How these tools can be implemented in instruction are limited only by your creativity. Challenge yourself and your students to think of new ways of using existing tools!  For example:
  • Consider using Google Slides to design posters (hint: change document size in the File menu)
  • Collect GPS data in Google Sheets and create custom Google Maps to plot your findings, then publish in Sites (Example: Maple Project)
  • Use Google Drawings and Slides to prototype app designs (templates here & here).

Technology can Help us Shatter the Single Story
In her keynote speech Jennie Magiera, Chief Innovation Officer in Des Plaines, IL, encouraged us to give students more of a voice. She gave examples from her own childhood and others to illustrate the danger in seeing students as a “single story”. According to Magiera, “it’s a teacher’s job to amplify the untold story of our students’ potential.” Online video can be a powerful platform for giving students a platform and an audience for them to share their full stories. Don’t miss your opportunity to learn from Magiera when she keynotes at the Colorado Summit on November 4.

Early Coding: One Way to Close the Innovation and Tech Gender Gap
Reshma Saujani, the founder of, shared research and findings from her own efforts to demonstrate the gender inequality in technology. There is a tremendous opportunity for growth in this area, and Saujani is trying to accelerate this by supporting the founding of thousands of “Girls Who Code” clubs across the US. If you are interested in starting a Girls Who Code club at your school, you can start the process by visiting this link.

Formative Assessment Has Never Been So Fun!
Checking for student understanding during a lesson or unit has never been so easy or fun! Monica Burns of encouraged us to make sure our formative assessments are meaningful, sustainable, and scalable. Here are some of our favorite formative assessment tools:
a) Spark Post is a simple graphic design tool that students can use to creatively demonstrate understanding
b) Recap is a service that encourages student reflection through the use of video
c) Kahoot is developing a new mobile app that allows students to also see the question on their screen, thus enabling “homework challenges” that can be assigned
d) Padlet is like a virtual wall of sticky-notes to which students can post text, images, and more to show understanding.

New ISTE Standards Create Empowered Learners
ISTE’s standards for students, educators, and administrators have evolved significantly over the years. Think not of things to do, but ways to be. At this year’s conference, the latest iteration of these standards was unveiled. Check out the detailed standards here:

Augmented and Virtual Reality are Everywhere!

As soon as we entered the conference hall lobby we were greeted by a big sign advertising the ISTE 2017 Augmented Reality game, encouraging attendees to search for and scan various hidden clues throughout the venue. The presence of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) was hard to miss this year. Microsoft demonstrated its Hololens headset by having participants analyze historic artifacts. Google demoed the latest version of its Expeditions software which uses AR to let you look inside Rome’s Colosseum, for example. Multiple sessions and playgrounds were available to conference attendees looking to try out the latest experiences. You will be seeing a lot more of this in the next couple of years, and there will surely be many interesting educational applications.

Let Students Take the Lead
On the heels of the latest ISTE standards with a focus on empowered learning, many schools are already taking steps to let students take the lead with technology. We met students from a school in Texas who had organized a half-day tech conference for students, by students. Sessions ranging from document design to virtual reality were offered to the student body, with additional networking opportunities built into the schedule. How are we providing opportunities like this for our students?

What Were Your Takeaways?
Comment below with what inspired, challenged, or amazed you about #ISTE17 and mark your calendars for next year’s conference in Chicago June 24-27, 2018.

Monday, July 17, 2017

InnEdCO 2017: BVSD Experiences Innovative Education Colorado


“Lifelong learners” is a term often heard in educational circles. Lifelong learners that have a growth mindset are motivated to set learning goals, focus on their efforts, reflect, and achieve new understandings. Lifelong learners with a growth mindset that seek creative and innovative ideas in technology (and live near the Centennial State) go to Innovative Education Colorado (InnEdCO)! And Boulder Valley School District is teeming with lifelong learners, as evidenced last month at the InnEdCO conference. Over 70 BVSD employees attended the three-day conference in Keystone. This number is significant for multiple reasons, such as the incredible growth of attendees over the years and the impact it has on our schools when attendees return and share with their colleagues and students.

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In addition to the incredible amount of attendees and presenters that were at InnEdCO, the quality of sessions and learning was on par! And these ideas/tools are a hole-in-one:
  • You can create shared albums that ANYONE can add to by link! Imagine having students go on a field trip and adding their visual experience. Every contributor’s photo is credited to them, so tracking participation is easy. Check out the BVSD @ #InnEdCO17 Google Photo Shared Album.
  • Keynote speaker Rusul Alrubail reminded us to teach with empathy and kindness because micro-interactions in our day often result in high impact for those we encounter, including our students. “Our role is no longer outcome-centered, classroom-centered or teacher-centered. It is student-centered.”
  • Keynote Speaker Ken Shelton encouraged educators to empower students’ voices through storytelling. 21st century students are communicating their words and thoughts through online publications of digital and visual means. How are students learning to immerse others in their stories to form connections and relationships? A pro tip: have students storyboard their digital narrative, then swap storyboards with a classmate and create each other’s digital story! Check out his classroom ready comparison of visual language to the published word.

This is just a brief peek looking back at an amazing week of learning and collaborating with like-minded educators and educational supporters from across our region and state. As we reflect on a June filled with innovation and inspiration, we want to know what you are learning this summer! Add in your comments below and/or tweet it out to us @bvsdedtech. Make sure to include #BVSDLearns!  

Save the Date June 11-14, 2018 for next year’s InnEdCO!