Jun 15 2020

How One School District Encourages Creativity and Innovation with Tech

Technology should support creativity in education. Here’s how one school district makes it work.

There is no greater power than that of a creative mind bolstered by a strong foundation of learning.

That is what we believe at St. Vrain Valley Schools, and it is the basis of our efforts to ensure our students are well equipped to enter the workforce and higher education with the skills they need to become the next generation of innovators and creators. This philosophy would also benefit other K–12 districts.

Technology is a key part of fostering creativity in education — and research backs this up. As Gallup researchers note, “creativity in learning produces positive critical outcomes for students, which are further enhanced when teachers leverage the full potential of technology.”

Here are three ways St. Vrain ensures creativity and innovation are a part of everyday learning.

READ MORE: Learn how one principal is using makerspaces to transform her school.

Learning Comes First in District Technology Plan

In 2012, when St. Vrain Valley Schools passed a mill levy to support technology in instruction, the first conversations centered on learning, not purchasing. With our community’s investment in technology, we develop students’ ability to “create, communicate, collaborate, investigate, and explore,” as our learning technology plan’s vision statement notes. We embed creativity into everyday learning by intentionally building our technology program around the verbs of student work. Investigation and exploration become avenues for inspired creativity.

Gallup researchers found that 85 percent of teachers who demonstrate creativity in learning and use technology in transformative ways say their students often demonstrate problem-solving skills. This helps explain why professional learning matters.

Embedded learning technology coaches support St. Vrain teachers through innovative professional development, inspiring creative, technology-fueled teaching.

Creating Systemwide Support for Innovation and Creativity

At St. Vrain Valley schools, we use makerspaces as local hubs of a systems approach to innovation and creativity that radiates out from the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools. At first, the Innovation Center was a startup in a wing of our career development center. It’s now a 50,000-square-foot building where students from across the district can enroll in courses that lead to industry certifications, pitch ideas and pursue funding to start their own businesses.

Students also have opportunities to work as interns and designers for more than 90 industry partners. Our Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) programs include computer science and biomedical courses of study where students can earn an associate degree — at no cost to the student — while completing their high school diplomas. Not only are students learning to become the innovators of tomorrow, they are demonstrating their skills and passion as part of their education today.

85%

The percentage of teachers who focus on creativity in learning and use technology in transformative ways who say they often observe their students solving problems

Source: Gallup, “Creativity in Learning,” October 2019

Supporting Creativity While Boosting Access to Advanced Technology

Most students want to spend more time working on projects that can be used and shared in the complex 21st-century global environment, the Gallup research indicates. For St. Vrain students, tablet computers are the primary learning device for tasks such as note taking, reading and research. The tablets also are ideal for creating because they include cameras, can be used with a stylus and support mobile applications.

Through partnerships with industry leaders such as IBM, St. Vrain students are leveraging new technology to design and implement solutions to difficult world problems. They are building artificial intelligence chatbots using IBM’s Watson, forming partnerships with the Denver Zoo and the Ocean First Institute to create underwater robots to monitor endangered frogs, and designing and developing apps with the Swift coding language. Through these types of activities, students develop in-demand soft skills such as communication, creative problem-solving and project management.

Don Haddad, Superintendent, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Colorado
Most students want to spend more time working on projects that can be used and shared in the complex 21st-century global environment.”

Don Haddad Superintendent, St. Vrain Valley Schools in Colorado

St. Vrain Valley Schools also focuses on the broader impact of our work. We strive to engage and include community partners in multiple ways. For example, we use our Mobile Innovation Lab, a cutting-edge technology and innovation center in a mobile environment, to expand the impact of the creativity happening in our classrooms throughout our community.

Behind every innovation that drives our world is a team with an idea and the drive to realize that vision. By empowering students to create, we also enable them to build a better future for our community and our world.

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