In 2017, the Estes Park School District held a series of public conversations with the community to identify what people believe student values should be in our rapidly changing world. The conversations were a huge success, and the school district adopted several key ideas as their “Global Outcomes,” including critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving, innovation, self-motivation, adaptability, creativity, and overall real-world application of knowledge and life skills.
In an effort to continue implementing these ideas, eight school district representatives visited two Apple Distinguished Schools in the Chicago area: Barrington High School and Roslyn Elementary School. These schools are recognized as centers of leadership and educational excellence where technology-rich environments support learning goals. Estes Park School District’s belief in providing a “local education for a global future” was underscored by the instruction evident in their classrooms. From first graders working on basic programming to high school students creating real apps for iOS, innovation was the cornerstone of teaching in this forward-thinking district.
“My primary takeaway is creation over consumption. As a teacher, I should be having my students developing and demonstrating their knowledge in a more authentic, collaborative fashion,” fourth grade teacher Matt Redford said.
The educators at these schools said that one of the keys to their success has been hiring instructional coaches to support classroom teachers in their efforts to improve students’ learning experiences. Last year, Estes Park Schools hired Erin Miller as an elementary and middle school instructional coach. Ms. Miller has received positive feedback from not only the faculty and teaching staff at these schools, but parents as well, and the district is working on other ways to capitalize on this success and broaden the impact instructional coaches can bring.
“We have a lot of great people and great technology [in Estes Park]; now we need to work on taking the students to the next level with creating,” Dr. Kevin Aten, Director of Innovation and Instruction, said.
While in Chicago, the delegation spent a day working with Apple professionals to learn how to develop a culture of innovation and tools for enhancing it. They learned new technology applications, including how to use augmented reality applications to create a virtual cardiovascular system. In this, they explored the model to the depths of a beating heart.
Research shows that students need to be able to think critically and innovate in order to be successful in the future.
“We need to stop saying no …. and get the message out of why this is important. The students need these skills to be successful in the future, and companies need employees with these skills now,” Nick Gooch, Computer Information Systems Manager said.
In a traditional school model, students are passive recipients of information. The Estes Park School District aims to provide opportunities for students to be purposeful creators as opposed to passive consumers of information. Currently, iPads are provided for all students in grades 2-12. As they observed in the Apple Distinguished Schools, the district wants to increase our students’ opportunities for creating and deeper learning.
“If we have a culture of creativity and collaboration, then the technology and innovation are easy,” said Anne Dewey, who sits on the educational technology team for Estes Park Schools.
Armed with this new information, the Estes Park School District continues the strong momentum of enhancing 21st Century learning for our students, providing a brighter future for all.