After 13 wonderful years with the Carlsbad Unified School District, I made the leap to neighboring Vista Unified as the new Superintendent in July. Vista Unified is the fourth-largest district in San Diego County with over 22,000 students (25,000 when charters are included) and 32 school sites. To help me to understand the new setting I made it a goal to visit every classroom within the first two months of the school year. While I still have a few to see, I have managed to see hundreds of classrooms within that timeframe.
Though the duration of each visit was relatively brief, I saw amazing consistency in many respects and I also observed some unique and innovative practices. In all, it has been a tremendous learning opportunity and I wish that I could share the experience in great detail. In the spirit of brevity, here are three examples I doubt I would have seen even a few years ago.
At Rancho Buena Vista High School the students in an English class had worked in small groups to create posters with content that would be used in an upcoming test. In lieu of having each student copy the documents, the teacher invited students to take photos using their smartphones and then share the images with peers. Brilliant!
In a primary classroom at Beaumont Elementary School, one teacher asked students to compose messages that could fit in a 140-character Twitter post to share their impressions of the classroom with me. This was a great cross-disciplinary idea that required students to use a sentence frame and their writing skills. Counting the characters required some number sense and application of mathematics. Who knew that a Twitter assignment could be used as a prompt for first-grade students?
Tablets absolutely are beginning to transform the educational experience for students. In this photo from Temple Heights Elementary School the teacher was able to replay the work that a student had done on a particular math problem to better understand their reasoning and problem-solving approach. The ease of use, portability, and flexibility of the tablets seem to be leading to higher levels of use than the computers that have all-too-frequently been left alone in the corners of the classroom. I saw tablets being used for independent work, guided activities, and direct instruction in conjunction with LCD projectors. I suspect that what I saw was simply the tip of the iceberg.
In reflecting on this experience, here are two quick insights:
- This is an amazing time to be in education. New and innovative options for teaching and learning are emerging daily.
- Any educator in need of inspiration should find a way to visit classrooms. The enthusiasm of the students—and the adults—is absolutely contagious.
I am already looking forward to the next round of visits!
Stay connected and follow our progress ….
Editor’s note: Here’s one of Devin’s recent Twitter posts.
— Devin Vodicka, EdD (@dvodicka) November 21, 2012