Monday, December 1, 2014

Innovative Learning Spaces

The bond measure that Boulder Valley voters approved on November 4 includes funds earmarked for improving learning spaces at each school. This is important because the environment that we create for students has an extensive impact on how they learn. Teachers spend countless hours personalizing their classrooms, making them more welcoming for students with bulletin boards, posters, artwork, and furniture arrangement. There are certain limitations, however, that keep us from creating spaces that support the major changes happening in education.

Students sit in rows facing the teacher for direct instruction.
Most of our schools were built and outfitted during a time when teacher-centric classrooms were the paradigm. Desks were arranged in rows, all facing the front of the classroom. This model worked well when the only teaching model was the "sage on the stage". We now know there are multiple ways to teach and facilitate learning that include more student-centric, collaborative environments.

So what does this new, innovative classroom look like? There’s no one answer or “look”, but it should have certain key qualities. It should be modular and easily adaptable to the fluid nature of student-centric learning. For most classrooms this means moveable desks, chairs, and other furniture that can easily transition from group work to individual projects and even whole-group instruction when needed.

The IT Copper Lab can be reconfigured for a variety of collaboration opportunities.
The innovative classroom should support a variety of learning styles rather than making every child conform to one style. For some students this means incorporating movement into their day with “fidget” chairs and plenty of well-timed breaks. For other children this may mean providing breakout spaces for quiet study or small group work. The variety of meeting configurations will also allow students to have more opportunities to share and collaborate in a space and group where they are most comfortable.

Hokki stools are a fun alternative to traditional chairs.
The innovative classroom should also adapt to the technology the class is using, with plenty of charging stations and displays for projecting any device. With this flexibility, there is no ‘front of the room’; rather there are multiple areas students can turn their attention to when the teacher is delivering direct instruction to a group of students. This type of adaptation in a classroom allows teachers and students to flow more efficiently between the different types of activities and instruction that occur many times during the school day.

A redesigned classroom does more than just improve the learning experience for students while they're in school; it also prepares them for a changing work environment, where employees may use couches instead of desks, or sit at large tables instead of in cubicles.

This modern office space features modular, comfortable seating options.

The qualities of the innovative classroom—modular, inclusive, and adaptable—can be applied anywhere in a school. Libraries, cafeterias, gyms, even restrooms can be outfitted to better support the diverse needs of our students.

An adjustable table and chairs can go from the library to the lunchroom.
The innovation funds from the Bond will allow your school will decide how to create spaces that will support student-centric and innovative flexible learning environments. (Please note that innovation funds cannot be used to purchase technology, such as iPads and Chromebooks).

In preparation for these changes, we encourage you to visit innovative classrooms, including the Copper Lab at IT, and notice how they affect you. Do you feel more comfortable? Empowered? Are you more engaged as a learner? If you feel different as a result of the space, imagine how your students will feel and how they will learn.

Modular couches provide a comfortable meeting environment.

For More Information



  • Christenson, Clayton M. Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 
  • Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin Books, 2010. 
  • Friedman, Thomas. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution-- And How It Can Renew America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. 
  • Friedman, Thomas. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. 
  • Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York : Basic Books, 1983. 
  • Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books, 1995. 
  • Jones, Richard. Rigor and Relevance Handbook. Rexford, N.Y.: International Center for Leadership in Education, Inc., 2010. 
  • Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. New York: Riverhead Books, 2006. 
  • Trilling, Bernie, and Charles Fadel. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009. 
  • Wagner, Tony. The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need--And What We Can Do About It. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

Monday, November 17, 2014

BVSD 21st Century Teacher Librarian Vision

Check out the video about the new BVSD 21st Century Teacher Librarian Vision & Website! You can also read along in the transcript below.

Welcome to a tour of the BVSD 21st Century Librarian Website. During the last three years, the teacher librarian group participated in a visioning process to help strengthen their libraries, schools, students and staff. As part of the process, the teacher librarians felt that a website with information about this vision, as well as practical examples of what this “looks like” in a library would be helpful to both the librarian in his or her own professional development, and also for teachers and principals to understand the ways a teacher librarian can support the learning and instructional goals of a building.

On the homepage, there are links to each characteristic that librarians will work to embody as they continue to develop professionally. When you click on a characteristic, you are taken to a page that provides a description of the characteristic, a video featuring a BVSD teacher librarian demonstrating how they apply this characteristic in their libraries, as well as additional resources for information that supports continued growth of the topic.

For example, if I click “Student Outreach and Advocacy Leader”, I am provided a detailed list of attributes, a few videos explaining and demonstrating this characteristics, as well as resources for more information. Each of these characteristics will be updated as our teacher librarians continue to produce exemplars of their work with their students and staff.

This website has helped to provide a framework for how teacher librarians are viewed in BVSD. This website and subsequent white paper information was presented to Dr. Messinger and cabinet as a way to provide talking points with principals about staffing a 21st century library. We’d also like to point out the links to the visions of our librarians that are a part of the 21st Century Cohort--these visions are reflections of the passion this group has for their own learning as well as student learning in BVSD!

Our goal throughout this process has been to increase the information available to our district in regards to the role of the teacher librarian, as well as a way to help support movement and growth opportunities for our librarians. This past year we were fortunate to have Regina Hoskins, librarian at Southern Hills Middle School and Arlene Gregersen, librarian at Mesa Elementary School, serving in a role as teacher librarian leaders to help finalize this website as well as find ways to support teacher librarians into developing into these leaders. Their leadership, along with the leadership of Technical Services Librarian Amy Bland, District Cataloguer Rae Ciciora, and the BVSD Ed Tech team helped to finalize this material!

We will continue to work with the teacher librarians to develop these characteristics as ways to support the learning and instructional goals of our schools! And most importantly, to impact the growth and learning of our students!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CALCON 14 Wrap-Up

The Colorado Association of Libraries Conference (CALCON) was held on October 16-18, 2014 in Loveland. The conference highlighted a cross-section of the trends and themes of librarianship, with a special focus on Makerspace and DIY, creative collaboration between libraries, and engaging programming for children and teens (with lots of zombies, of course).

Boulder Public Library's bike-mobile outreach program

The overall mood of the conference was one of positivity and creative problem solving, despite (or because of) major changes happening in our profession. Friday’s keynote speaker, Corinne Hill, executive director of the Chattanooga Public Library, embodied this spirit of radical change while still being grounded in the overall mission of libraries as institutions of knowledge and information. As Corinne put it, “We’re librarians. No one is going to die if we make a mistake, so get out there and innovate.”

This year’s conference was a showcase for many librarians across the state to present on special programs and initiatives happening in their libraries. Here is a small sampling of sessions:

  • Convergence: a dauntless approach to collaboration
  • A library bike bespoke for you: innovative outreach
  • You can do it! Create digital content
  • Light bulb to launch: getting your new ideas to happen
  • Media labs on the cheap: free and open source software
  • Robots loose in the library!
  • Play is serious business
  • Partnerships and collaboration: connecting with other libraries
  • Leading from where you are

Check out the entire conference schedule here.

Several teacher librarians and library leadership represented BVSD at CALCON this year.  Beatrice Gerrish co-facilitated two sessions: Dewey or don’t we? Transitioning to the bookstore model, and Reject the fears and embrace a balanced future: creating libraries that are the heart of their schools. Amy Bland and Nannette McMurtry also led two sessions: It’s all about choice, baby! Flipping the professional development model for librarians, and Going Google in the library.

A conference shouldn’t end with the closing keynote. The whole point is to share and apply what you learned when the conference is over. We shared our learning in several ways: we collected our conference notes in this shared folder that any teacher librarian can access. We also tweeted the conference using #cocalcon14 (hint: you can follow any conference this way, even if you don’t attend—just follow the conference hashtag). If you are interested, we encourage you to check out those resources to see how other Colorado librarians are growing and leading.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Google Apps Summit at Monarch High School a Huge Success!

Over 350 educators from across Colorado attended the Google Apps For Education Summit on October 11 & 12, 2014. The conference featured keynote speakers who shared inspiring stories of how technology can empower young people. Ken Shelton articulated why technology matters by sharing the story of Michael, a boy with autism who uses technology to communicate to the world. Molly Schroeder inspired us to forget perfection and “live in beta”. She shared how technology and 3D printing created new arms for children suffering from the wars in Sudan. These speakers pushed us to embrace moonshot thinking, to redefine how we dream, and to forge ahead into the age of digital learning.
GAFE participants gather outside to check in.

Throughout the rest of the summit, we attended hour-long sessions taught by educators and leaders in educational technology from around the state, Google Apps Certified Teachers, and BVSD teachers. Many of the resources are linked on the schedule, so if you could not attend, please check it out.

Kelly is excited to start a weekend of learning.
We had over 100 BVSD teachers and leaders attend the summit. I would love to hear your reactions to the summit and respond to my Google Plus post or to this blog about your top two takeaways from the summit.

If you were one of the attendees, you might have been inspired to become a conference presenter yourself. We encourage you to submit a proposal to present at the 2015 InnEdCo Conference (June 23-25). The 2015 conference has a lot of flexibility for presentation styles, not just the traditional “sage on the stage” session. It’s a great conference for first-time presenters, and we are confident that many BVSD teachers are ready for this next step.
Luci and Art helped our technology run smoothly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2014 Colorado Google Apps Summit

We are gearing up for this weekend’s Google Apps for Education Summit Colorado. Workshop sessions include exploring innovative learning spaces, discussing how to implement Chromebooks in all levels of learning, exploring resources to increase critical thinking, and more!
Twelve educators from Boulder Valley School District will be presenting at this conference, in addition to presenters from around the state and country.
BVSD Presenters @Google Apps for Education Summit
  • Amy Bland, Ed Tech
  • Megan Cosmos, Superior Elementary
  • Dave Crowder, Louisville Middle
  • Bobby Lehman, Ed Tech
  • Nannette McMurtry, Ed Tech
  • Lisa Norton, Casey Middle
  • Jason Oliver, Centaurus High
  • Nathan Paul, Peak to Peak
  • Shauna Polson, Boulder High
  • Kelly Sain, Ed Tech
  • Jeffrey Sanders, Southern Hills Middle
  • Mindy Williford, Southern Hills Middle

There is still time to register for this amazing event. See the information below!

We invite you to join us for the third annual EdTechTeam Colorado Summit featuring Google for Education to be held at Monarch High School on October 11 & 12, 2014. This high intensity two day event focuses on deploying, integrating, and using Google Apps for Education and other Google Tools to promote student learning in K-12 and higher education. The program features Google Certified Teachers, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers and practicing administrators.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Best of Innovative Education Colorado (InnEdCo) For BVSD, Part 2

Best of Innovative Education Colorado (InnEdCo) For BVSD, Part 2

A few weeks ago you read the top 5 experiences at the InnEdCo conference held at Copper Mountain Resort, June 2014. Today we have the remaining top 10

6. iPiccy -  This free image editor gives professionals and novices alike the ability to create amazing and fun images. Whether you need an app to touch up a few snapshots or want to create an educational poster. No registration required, so check it out!

7. PiktoChart - Add oomph to your infographics! Piktochart can create a truly great looking infographic. The selection of premade imagery available is impressive, from backgrounds to basic shapes to themed clip art from all kinds of topics. Check it out now!

8. Connections to our BVSD Mission and Vision and strategic planning - BVSD leadership was highlighted at the keynote. By sharing via the conference and social media, Twitter, Google Plus, etc., we attract leaders and teachers to BVSD. By attending the conference, we highlight the importance of learning and professional development as stated in our strategic plan, mission and vision. Every session at the InnEdCo conference connected to the teacher effectiveness standards in BVSD, not just the technology integration standard. BVSD had 20 different teachers/leaders present at Innovative Education Colorado compared to only 3 people from BVSD presenting in 2011. Very exciting!

IMG_4085.JPG9. Connections and face-to-face collaboration with colleagues across Colorado - Educators are always making connections, whether face-to-face or online. Our great state of Colorado has very active Professional Learning Networks that are being used to collaborate and share resources. InnEdCo provides people the opportunity to meet like-minded educators with the same passions and aspirations. This year at InnEdCo was no different! And the connections don’t stop when the conference ends—check out #InnEdCo and #InnEdCo14 on Twitter for continued conversations.

Regina Hoskins,
Southern Hills Middle School

10. The Power of Social Media for Leaders - Any social media tool should enhance your face-to-face meetings and communication with stakeholders (families, students, staff and community). Don’t rely solely on technology to communicate. Whether you are a leader in your district, building, or classroom this presentation will give you key ideas on how to use social media as a tool to enhance your “two-way” communication. Check it out!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Best of Innovative Education Colorado for BVSD, Part 1

Best of Innovative Education Colorado For BVSD, Part 1

Now that students are back in school, and teachers have set up their classrooms and attended district professional development, it is time to reflect upon the top 10 takeaways from Innovative Education Colorado.

InnEdCo is a four-day conference held in the mountains where teachers and leaders learn about innovative teaching and learning practices that incorporate the use of digital tools in their daily instruction. In the summer of 2011, Boulder Valley School District had as few as three individuals attend. Jump forward to this June, 2014, when over 50 teachers and staff not only attended, but presented sessions and had key leadership roles in the conferences. We are proud of this movement toward learning and sharing!  We hope you can join us next year at InnEdCo! 

WorldClassLearnersZhao.pngNow check out our top 5 takeaways from the conference!

1. Keynote and Leadership by Dr. Yong Zhao  He envisions an educational system that focuses on creativity and entrepreneurial students. By focusing on hands-on learning, incorporating technology, and student-centric classrooms—and not just focusing on test scores—we enable and inspire our children. Dr. Zhao’s books Catching Up or Leading the Way and World Class Learners are inspirational reads.

2.  Keynote video: The video was shared during Dr. Yong Zhao’s keynote. It highlights the innovation, leadership, and learning in BVSD and surrounding districts. This movie, produced by students at Rock Canyon HS in DCSD, is the epitome of creativity: the students captured video on Monday and produced this final cut for Tuesday’s keynote. Look at what happens when the creative talents of our students meet the technology in their hands.

3. Making IT Happen Award - This honor was given to Kim Butler, the teacher librarian at Birch Elementary. Her principal states,  “Kim is an inspirational team member whose positive attitude encourages students and teachers to try new activities with technology”. A well-deserved award for a leader in libraries, technology, literacy, and innovation.

Kahoot screen.png4. Kahoot! Prepare to amaze your staff and students with this trivia game option! This can be a great option for BYOD schools. It is 100% free with no need for an account, just a game PIN from the main screen and a name. A compelling and oh-so-easy way to engage kids in pre- and formative assessments.

5. Office Scapes - Students thrive in collaborative, flexible learning environments. As we look at creating innovative learning spaces, Office Scapes provided us with two rooms of furniture to investigate and use to create a new flexible learning space. Imagine the possibilities in your classroom and witness it in person in the IT “Copper” training lab!

Stay tuned--

the next blog will reveal the rest of our

Top 10 InnEdCo moments!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ed Tech's Chromebook PD Energizes Instruction

Chromebooks Are Here!

Recently, IT began delivering hundreds of Chromebooks and over 70 Chromebook carts to BVSD schools. (See Chromebooks @ BVSD for more details.) This isn’t the first introduction of Chromebooks into the district, but it’s certainly the largest. Many schools are supplementing their existing Chromebooks with these classroom sets, while others may not have had much previous experience with these devices.

Chromebooks integrate well into our existing Google environment. Since moving to Gmail and Google calendar in early 2012, Google Apps have become integral to many classrooms. Students collaboratively edit documents using Google Drive, teachers post YouTube video lectures on their Google Sites, and office staff schedules appointments with Google Calendar. Because Chrome is a Google product, it supports all of these apps and is ideal for running cloud-based software.

The Classroom is Changing

Moving to an online, collaborative environment is one of the fundamental changes happening in education. Students are becoming authors, editors, collaborators, and artists on the world stage, not just in their own classrooms. Of course, merely delivering a classroom set of Chromebooks to a school doesn’t create that change. The real change happens when instruction becomes student-driven. The Chromebook (or any other web-enabled device) is just a tool: the learning is the outcome.

Ed Tech supports teachers as they make this shift to 21st century instruction with a variety of professional development opportunities. Many of these trainings use devices, such as Chromebooks and iPads, but the focus is always on instruction and learning outcomes, not on the tool as a separate entity.

Chromebook PD Opportunities

Here are several upcoming opportunities that are available to any BVSD educator. Check the Ed Tech PD Opportunities website for a complete calendar of events.

  • May 3, 2014 — Digital Innovative Learning Day
  • August 19, 2014 — District PD: Elementary Literacy Using Chrome
  • October 11-12, 2014 — Google for Education Colorado Summit
    • Please note that the Google for Education Summit is put on by a professional development company called The EdTechTeam™. Attendees are required to pay a registration fee just as they would for any other conference.
  • November 3, 2014 — Chrome Learning Day
  • January 14, 2015 — Chrome Learning Day
  • April/May 2015 — Digital Innovative Learning Day

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Early Literacy eBook Collection

BVSD’s youngest readers now have access to quality, narrated eBooks. Our libraries recently acquired an early literacy eBook collection, offered for free as a product of a collaboration between Douglas County Libraries, the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC), and Unite for Literacy. These organizations partnered to offer picture-book-style eBooks for young readers with multilingual narration. A recent article by Jamie LaRue in American Libraries Magazine, “The Price is Right at Unite for Literacy,” details the history of the partnership and the need for early literacy eBooks.

Each eBook has a variety of narration languages available.
Students, parents, and teachers can access the Unite for Literacy collection from the Unite for Literacy website. Clicking on an eBook image opens the title in the web-browser, where readers can select their narration language.

The Unite for Literacy website is arranged like a bookshelf for easy viewing.
These books are also accessible through district’s online catalog. Clicking on the link in the book’s description will take readers to the Unite for Literacy website.

eBook collections such as Unite for Literacy are part of the hybrid environment that is developing in many library collections. We anticipate more libraries in our district adopting a combination of digital and traditional library materials in order to best support their students.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Increasing students engagement using video technology - Media Cast

Media Cast
A loaded Treasure Trove

I’ve been playing in the big box of media content called MediaCast. If I put aside my just- Google-it goggles, I found that using some patience and very basic search skills (think: digging for treasure), there are some really good video resources. It’s truly like a jumbled warehouse of media (18,848 items!). I could wander for days looking at all the cool stuff. It’s loosely organized by topic, with a search bar that allows me to look for media by title (if I know it) or a keyword in the description. I can also narrow down my search using the filters on the left side - publisher, copyright date, grade level. I suggest starting with a keyword search before using the filters.

Last week, one of the providers for MediaCast, CCC!, uploaded a bunch of new material. The flyer is here. Check out all those new titles! We’ve got access now to a BBC series of Shakespeare theatre, as well as animated version of several Shakespeare plays (pages 1 and 9 of the flyer).

I am particularly interested in videos from the National Science Foundation and Inventions that Shook the World (pages 2 & 4). It was easiest to find those videos by using the title search. Many librarians have talked about using augmented reality in their libraries. The National Science Foundation has a short video about augmented reality in the operating room and combat zone. Amazing stuff! Here is a link directly to that video.

In the Inventions that Shook the World series, the flyer has the inventions organized by decade. MediaCast has it organized strictly by title of the invention. I’m partial to my Prius, so I watched The Hybrid Car video. I hadn’t realized that an American man invented the hybrid engine in the 1970’s, and that the US government wasn’t interested in pursuing the technology!

Related to these series is page 5, Greatest Human Achievements. Search for these videos using the titles in the bottom half of the page, not by the inventor names. These videos are perfect for Grades 4-12 STEM, and they are short and sweet.

Drive Thru History looks like a lot of fun as Dave Stotts drives through historic locations around the globe (page 3). Again, use the titles listed as your search term.

For students who are thinking of their future, there are two pages (pages 6 & 7) of titles for career choices called Major Decision. The copyright date is 2011, so most of the information is quite current.

What I really liked, while I was wandering through the new material, was the My Favorites feature of MediaCast. I didn’t have time to watch everything that interested me, so I clicked on a title and added it to My Favorites. When I have a moment, I’ll check out the videos and then manipulate them to fit my needs. I can snip the videos into segments that pertain to a teaching unit. Then I can add captions to those parts of the video that students need to pay attention to, to clarify something, or ask a question for the students to think about during that segment. I have been creating unique URLs for these segments, which I can then embed in emails, websites, or presentations.

I suspect MediaCast is a little-used wealth of media. I encourage you to take some time to browse what we have at our beck and call. Let me know what gem you’ve uncovered!

by Rae Ciciora