Oct 20

High Ridge Library Partners to Bring Slam Poet to Three SVVSD High Schools


Is there a better way to engage High School students in writing poetry than to see a World Champion Slam Poet in action?   Erie, Frederick, and Mead High Schools in SVVSD were lucky enough to have that opportunity in September, courtesy of the High Plains Library District.  The annual Teen Tour 2017 featured Joaquin Zihuatanejo, a Slam Poet who has won both US and International Slam Poetry Championship Titles.

Mr. Zihuatanejo, a former English teacher from Dallas, Texas, provided a one hour workshop in the library open to any class at the schools. He delivered several poems and spoke of his life and experiences at the heart of his writing, engaging students with his honesty and clear focus on writing from the heart. 

As we often hear from writers, he writes what he knows from his life experiences.  The poems are deeply personal, but share common ground with the listener. Even those students who were not interested in the beginning could not help but be swept into the fast-paced presentation and Mr. Zihuatanejo’s passion for poetry. As a Spanish speaker, he wove phrases and words from Spanish into the poetry. I watched as students who often don’t relate to writing, began to “lean in” at the back of the room. Following the presentation at the end of the school day, he offered a writers workshop for anyone who was interested in staying.  At Frederick HS about a dozen students and 5 adults stayed to participate and write a poem and left with starting ideas for a dozen more. Frederick held a Slam Poetry festival last Thursday in their school library. Here is a link to a video of The Poem for Jon that Mr. Zihuatanejo performed for us.

Thank you Ms. SullivanBlan for creating a opportunity for young writers to share their new found voice!

The High Plains Library system is a community partner that provides literacy and community educational supports for free to the area.  Books may be checked out in person or via the web through the same system, OverDrive, that is used by the students in school on their iPads. 

Click here to learn more about using the district’s digital library, and check out your local community library, too!


Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/10/20/high-ridge-library-partners-to-bring-slam-poet-to-three-svvsd-high-schools/

Oct 20

Inquiry-Based Learning

“Why are there more Inquiry projects now? This is so different from when I was in school.” And “How do I support my child when they are doing Inquiry-based learning projects at school?”

These questions have been topics of conversation in my home and with friends over years of Odyssey of the Mind, Science Fair projects, STEM classes, robotics, and more. 

Why? Because it is good setting them up for challenging situations. The graphic by Sylvia Duckworth shares 10 reasons to use Inquiry-based learning. This kind of learning begins with  questions that have no obvious answers and which lead learners to find solutions to real problems. Teachers shift role to facilitator as students discover their own unique paths.


Being a parent in this learning situation requires me to allow my child room to try, to experiment, to search. Yes, I want my children to have a strong foundation of skills, but it was through Inquiry-based learning that they found the purpose for refining these foundational skills. I see the benefits of passion, voice, motivation, curiosity, and grit in my children’s lives and in classrooms daily.

Supporting my child can be a challenge.  Remembering a few question patterns can help me support my child as they discover new learning. 

  • Is this new learning for them? Just because I might know an answer doesn’t mean I need to give it. Exploring doesn’t always lead to a right answer but is part of the process.
  • How might you (change, adapt, improve, use, apply)…? This type of question encourages creative thinking.
  • In what ways…? Plural language encourages connections.
  • What do you predict…? Prediction requires analysis and making connections between what is known and unknown.
  • How might others see/use/apply…? Seeing a solution from a different perspective deepens thinking.

When I walk through schools and see students engaged in solving problems and connecting to the world outside their classroom, I see elements of the 10 reasons. When I see tools such as iPads, Spheros, video creation, programming and app development, I am reminded of how dynamic learning can be.  I don’t need to know all the answers as a parent; some good questions may be just as important.

David Baker, Professional Development Coordinator and dad of 2 wonderful kids

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/10/20/inquiry-based-learning/

Sep 22

Privacy & Security: Using Strong Passwords

The recent Equifax data breach is a harsh reminder that protecting our personal data is of utmost importance. Teaching our children to protect their personal data by limiting what they share online and by using secure passwords will help them develop strong digital literacy skills that will serve them well in our digital world!

This year, all SVVSD middle and high school students are required to change their district passwords by November 1st. More information on how to set security questions and reset passwords can be found in this support article.

For strategies to use to help your children protect their data and set strong passwords, check out this article on Data Privacy & Security from Common Sense Media.

This short video for kids from connectsafely.org offers additional password tips for kids.

And finally, DinoPass is a fun site to help kids create memorable, yet strong, passwords!

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/09/22/privacy-security-using-strong-passwords/

Sep 22

When Technology Gets Out of the Way

Ben Kalb, Instructional Technology Coordinator and recently named Apple Distinguished Educator, reflects on the power of technology to help tell a story.  Video is a tool widely used in SVVS, not only in the classroom, but as a tool for professional growth and development district-wide.

The smell of hot plastic permeated the air as the hypnotizing hum of processors and internal computer fans ricocheted off the concrete walls of my college computer lab. I was a frequent patron to this place, although my visits normally entailed printing term papers from a copy machine that ate my coins as eagerly as I ate from the unlimited meal plan. But this was no ordinary trip to the computer lab, because this voyage empowered me! Rather than demonstrating my knowledge in something that could be printed from a 64mb flash drive, this particular assignment entailed telling a story through film. It was my first time editing a video and I’ll never forget how it made me feel! I had the power to tell my story and my canvas could be beautiful. I wasn’t in an over-priced production studio in Hollywood, I did not have an advanced degree in video production, but I was crafting a story a few feet from my door room…what a world. I was so excited about the opportunity that I wasn’t even bothered by the hour I spent waiting for my raw video to to be captured to the hard drive. After cutting up and splicing my video together, another hour under the flickering florescent lights flashed by as I waited for my final video to render. Walking back to my dorm room that evening with a freshly burned DVD in my coat pocket, I felt like I was living in the future! If you had told me on the walk back to my dorm room that some day I could do all of that and more from a personal laptop, I might have believed you.

In 2010, iMovie became available for iPhone and iPad. With minimal technical skill, you could take footage using the built-in camera on your device and cut, splice, and edit the footage right on the device! In subsequent years the iMovie App has become a free standard on all iOS devices and has improved countless features including advanced titles, voice overs, picture in picture, b-roll footage…etc. As a high school teacher in Illinois I would often have my students demonstrate their knowledge through video, and iMovie was a critical tool. For three years in St. Vrain I’ve seen countless teachers leverage video to amplify student voice and to empower students to take control of their learning. Creating an iMovie does take technical time to compile and while this time has been extraordinarily reduced since my days in the computer lab, students still log time tapping, swiping, and embellishing.

This year, a new iPad app called Clips makes creating and editing amazing videos easier than it’s ever been. I’ve seen 5th graders create an awesome looking video in less than 2 minutes of editing! I’ve seen families who create these Clips together to commemorate a special event. If you are curious how schools or teachers around the country are using Clips, search #classroomclips on twitter to see thousands of examples. It is unbelievable and exciting to know that every student every day has access to a more powerful and more efficient machine than the one I felt so empowered by in the computer lab fourteen years ago!




Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/09/22/when-technology-gets-out-of-the-way/

Sep 22

5 Questions Teachers Wish You Would Ask Them

“No TV until your homework is finished!”

Is this phrase familiar from your own childhood? Today, learning and technology are often enmeshed and it can be tough for parents to know when or how to draw a line. Common Sense Media recently published this article for parents about about screen time, multi-tasking, and supporting learning at home.

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/09/22/5-questions-teachers-wish-you-would-ask-them/