Steven Webb, superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools and a 2014 eSchool News Tech-Savvy Superintendent, shares five ed-tech devices to improve storytelling
In 2008, more than 400 students, recent graduates, district employees, parents, and community, agency, and business leaders came together to help Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) craft a new strategic plan. Thousands of stakeholders had a chance to weigh in along the way.
That plan, called Design II, has provided a road map to improve learning and teaching throughout the district. During the 2013-14 school year, stakeholders met again to refresh the plan and extend the vision for our schools to the year 2020.
Flexible learning environments are one of six Design II goal areas that guide our comprehensive effort to remove barriers and raise achievement for every student. Our work in this area has been focused on integrating digital technology tools to increase student engagement.
Thanks to a voter-supported initiative passed in 2013, every third- through 12th-grade student will have his or her own digital learning device by 2019. But weLearn 1:1, our digital transformation, isn’t about the technology. It’s about equipping each of our graduates with the adaptive skills they need to thrive in an increasingly interdependent global economy.
Technology empowers and engages learners. Storytelling can inform and inspire. Together, they can invite discovery and growth. In VPS, we want to leverage technology’s storytelling power to accelerate student, staff, and school success.
(Next page: Storytelling tech tools)
Billed as an interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool, Explain Everything enables students to import and annotate items, as well as integrate images, text, video, and audio files into shareable recorded presentations. VPS students have enlivened science demonstrations with this app by embedding videos of experiments.
At Vancouver iTech Preparatory, a STEM-focused school, students researched eras of U.S. history and then created multimedia projects through Aurasma. The augmented reality app made history come alive through image-recognition technology that launches interactive content. As a result, both creator and consumer can engage with the subject matter in meaningful ways.
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This is the epitome of digital storytelling. Not only can students add images, videos, music, and narration to text, they also can share their works with their peers and build class libraries. The app removes barriers to participation such as speech disorders, English language learning, or reticence, and draws out the voices of students who might otherwise never speak in class.
Students aren’t the only ones leveraging technology for narrative purposes. I believe that storytelling is one of the best ways to reach stakeholders. I create monthly podcasts that spotlight success stories around the district to inform and, I hope, inspire the more than 3,000 employees who serve VPS.
Tweeting as @SuptVPS provides a real-time platform for sharing success stories and linking to both the VPS community and the education community worldwide. Thanks to fellow Twitter users, I also have a wealth of educational and leadership resources—and new stories—to discover.
Steven T. Webb has been superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools since 2008. Webb also is a member of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools’ executive advisory committee and chair of its research work group. In 2014, he was named an eSchool News Tech-Savvy Superintendent.