Van Meter Community Schools
Van Meter School perspective and background
“Through the Looking Glass” Transforming to a 21st Century School District
The Van Meter Community School District is a 625 student, K-12 district located in central Iowa, 22 miles west of the State Capital. Primarily rural, it is within minutes of the retail complex Jordan Creek Town Center, Wells Fargo Corporate Campus and the new world headquarters of Aviva USA. The District has been focused on systemically creating a K-12 educational system to empower ALL students to THINK, LEAD and SERVE. The mission is to position students with skill sets to compete globally. Our goal is to successfully achieve this capacity by the end of the 2012-13 school year.
In the spring of 2009, the Board committed to rolling-out laptop computers to all students grades 7-12 for the upcoming school year. (In the fall of 2010 they voted to include the 6th grade). During the 2009-10 school year, students and staff learned and worked together to embrace this new technology. It changed our thinking. We began to move from teacher lead learning to teacher facilitated learning. Using Social networking tools like Twitter, I-Chat and SKYPE, along with web 2.0 digital tools like Nings, Wikis and Blogs, students connected and moved from consumers of content to creators of content.
Because our thinking changed, we began to see things differently and a synchronicity occurred. Through Twitter, Van Meter built a “brand” and connected with educators and learners globally. We discovered and have linked not only with other Iowa 1:1 schools but also with secondary schools in Michigan, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Van Meter students now learn and create with these students.
We now are beginning our second year working with virtual reality. All student computers in the inventory have BLENDER as part of their image the simulation program. Using special projection systems, student created projects in BLENDER can be projected and manipulated in 3D. With support from Rockwell-Collins, we are building capacity with students to utilize and create using these tools. It is important to note that this learning is student to student: students connect and teach each other students how to use the program and share their creations. If questions or challenges arise, students e-mail engineers at Rockwell-Collins to “brainstorm” solutions. We are excited to be working with Dr. Trace Pickering from Grant Wood AEA as he links together the current 30 Iowa VR schools.
As we move into the 2010-11 school year, our thinking and actions continue to evolve at the elementary as we work towards a total system transformation. Van Meter Elementary has added the Daily Five to the Guided Reading program. Daily Five focuses on students participating in authentic literacy experiences. Students are regularly assessed and placed in groups where there instruction can be differentiated. Problem-solving and use of manipulative is stressed throughout our math program. Teachers are using technology throughout the curriculum with programs like First in Math and Skills Iowa, along with web resources, such as Voicethread, KidBlog, Animoto, Edmodo, SKYPE and YouTube. In science, we have implemented an inquiry-based approach. Students create hypotheses, conduct investigations and draw conclusions. In addition to hands-on science activities, students keep science journals as a cross-curricular application of writing skills. Character education has been a focus through programs such as Character Counts, Tribes and Positive Behavior Instructional Supports.
Van Meter is experiencing a fundamental shift of thinking and ALL have been changed. Students, teachers, administration, board members, parents and district patrons now think differently. We see the world through a new lens, with new connections, opportunities and possibilities. In using technology, student centered classrooms are being redefined. Learning is taking on a whole new meaning as students are connecting and collaborating with students in other states and countries and creating new information. Our “through the looking glass” journey continues….
ref: Google Document set up to allow St Augustine’s College – Sydney and Van Meter School to understand the perspective and background of the other school.