Friday, October 27, 2017

Three SBISD Middle Schools Receive iPads as Part of VILS Learning Initiative

A student kicks a soccer ball equipped with sensors to analyze its flight at the Spring Woods Middle School VILS event on Oct. 4.
Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) Supports Spring Branch T-2-4 by Enhancing PERSONALIZATION

In Jordon Shaw’s seventh grade humanities class, students are exploring historic Jamestown Colony using a device that our nation’s forefathers would have seen as from the distant future – the iPad. 

Provided through the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) initiative, the device is one of nearly 1,800 in SBISD that can connect students to lessons from the past while opening their minds to future possibilities. 

The VILS initiative, a partnership between Digital Promise and Verizon, is focused on providing America’s youth with access to the education and resources they need to prepare them for success in tomorrow’s high-tech world. 

Users, including Director of Science Donald Burken (right), manipulate robotic balls via an app on a handheld devices at STEM station at the Spring Woods Middle School VILS event on Oct. 4.
What’s even better than that? Verizon doesn’t just fund the program – they partner with school districts to create and administer sustained momentum for the initiative.

SBISD has worked in tandem with Digital Promise and Verizon to develop a plan to deliver, train and launch the initiatives to families in SBISD, culminating in the delivery of more than 1,800 iPads into the hands of students at Northbrook Middle, YES Prep Northbrook Middle and Spring Woods Middle.

Program implementation was a collaborative effort, led by the district’s Coordinator of Personalized Learning, Patricia Kassir. Personalization is at the heart of the school district strategic plan, The Learner’s Journey, and achieving SBISD’s goal of T-2-4 for Every Child.

Personalization in SBISD must include each of these four ingredients:
  • Anytime, anywhere learning (Access)
  • Individualized instruction (Rigor)
  • Holistic, actionable data (4D)
  • Student voice and agency
The VILS initiative directly supports each of the four ingredients of personalization in SBISD by providing 24/7 access to digital content, empowering teachers to deepen and individualize learning, ensure multiple measures of data is used, and empowering students with greater agency.

The VILS initiative will distribute more than $160 million nationally in technology, access and learning resources for students in need.

With a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), VILS builds initiative capacity using several key areas of focus – digitizing schools, technology immersion, app development and teaching the design thinking process in schools.

Ask Northbrook Middle’s VILS coach Mari Ortega about the initiative and it’s immediately clear she’s a champion, not for a device, but for the impact that comes from heightened levels of student agency and engagement with learning and the connections that can be built between teacher, students, and families.

“We’re reducing the gap between those with technology and those without,” said Ortega. “Our students are going to be more engaged. We can customize how they learn, and there are so many different ways to use this one tool.

“We (educators) have more ways to connect with our students. We can see where they are in their learning,” she said. “We can ask questions, and it’s no longer about a student raising a hand, it’s now about the expectation that all students are engaging in real-time.”

Ortega is also excited about student and family buy-in to the initiative.

“At the beginning of this process, we expected to have only 60 percent of the kids participating,” she said. “Now, we have over 90 percent participation. It’s amazing, and it’s exciting to see that level of commitment from the parents, families and educators.”

And Ortega isn’t the only one excited about the initiative’s impact. Listen to student America Luna’s perspective on the initiative’s first full week and it’s clear that she’s a proponent of technology as a tool for learning.

“We’re living in the 21st Century, and learning has to involve technology,” said Luna. “Now my teacher can upload her lessons (and) I can access them from anywhere, anytime. It makes it simple to find and do my work, and it makes me feel in control and less rushed in my learning.”

Spring Woods Middle School Principal Debbie Silber (left), Chief Information Officer Christina Masick, Trustee Josef Klam, Board of Trustees President Karen Peck, Trustee Chris Gonzalez, State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, Coordinator of Personalized Learning Patricia Kassir, Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri and Community Superintendent D’Andre Weaver at the Spring Woods Middle School event on Oct. 25.
Fellow student and VILS Student Tech Team member Abigail Davila's perspective on the initiative isn’t so much a question of technology access but how that technology is applied.

“Before, I would go home and play games on my iPad. I'd watch movies,” said Davila. “Now, I want to go home and do my homework. Really! These iPads are specifically set up for learning, and it’s making me more interested in my school work.”

At the iPad distribution event at Spring Woods Middle, students got help setting up their iPads with their personal information and had opportunities to use their new devices at selfie stations and engaged with interactive posters that come to life via an app.

Students (and others) also experienced apps at STEM stations set up in one of the school’s gymnasiums, where they could kick a soccer ball rigged with sensors that analyze the flight of the ball and bowl or navigate a maze using the iPad to control a robotic ball.

A similar event is scheduled for Northbrook Middle and YES Prep Northbrook Middle for early December.

Seated in her campus library now, though, and surrounded by books, Davila opens her iPad and begins to demo some of the apps adopted by her teachers. Just as personal iPad users can add apps to their devices, the school can expand available apps to campus iPads as the initiative grows.

Judging from Davila's enthusiasm, expansion is welcome and would lead to even more engagement and learning.

“Right now we have an app that you can test your reading level and then immediately download digital books to do our independent reading,” said Davila. “I can see where I am and then immediately download a book to my device.”

With the iPad’s screen’s glow reflecting on her face, Davila continues to demo device apps while explaining what this new opportunity means to her, her school, and her future.

“I hope I can learn more,” she said. “I hope as a school we increase our learning because now we have this technology. It’s opening our eyes to what we can be when we grow up.”

For more information about the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools initiative, click here or here.

For information about SBISD’s strategic plan, The Learner’s Journey, click here.

Thank you to the partners, parents, educators and district staff who made this initiative possible. Special thanks to Verizon and Digital Promise for their partnership in support of personalizing the learning experience for Every Child in SBISD.

Click here to watch a video spotlight on this work. 
Click here to listen to Patricia Kassir talk about Personalization and implementation of this initiative.


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