Vancouver Public Schools, Vancouver, Washington
After adopting 1-to-1 learning that came about through a state technology levy passed in 2013, Vancouver Public Schools recognized that teachers and students needed extra training beyond traditional classroom time on how to use—and get the most out of—new education technology.
Starting in 2016, the district encouraged teachers and students to participate in “Hour of Code”—a one-hour introduction to computer science led by Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science.
“For many students, this was their first introduction to code,” says Zachery Desjarlais, director of instructional technology. “They were excited to explore this new learning process and see how it could apply to robotics.”
To follow up on the success of the program, the district created the Hour of Creation program for three classrooms. But soon, staff members around the district began requesting to also participate.
Now each Hour of Creation session is led by instructional technology facilitators—teachers on special assignment within the district—who train how to use certain technologies and apps, such as green screens, stop-motion animation, Tellagami and Chatterpix. They also learn how to model the best practices in using technology to collaborate, communicate, create and think critically.
Teachers request sessions and determine what times facilitators can lead one at their school.
“Sessions usually take place right in the classroom,” says Desjarlais. Sessions also occur in a library, gym, common area or cafeteria. Each runs one hour and includes both students and teachers.
During a session, students divide into three groups and then rotate through three stations, each led by a facilitator.
At each station, facilitators first demonstrate how an app or new platform works and brainstorm examples on how it can be used. Students then spend 15 minutes creating projects. Each station ends by sharing finished or partially finished projects and discussing how students can apply what they learned.
While students rotate through the stations, teachers have their own facilitator and observe. “They ask questions and sometimes jump right in and participate with the students,” says Desjarlais.
The teacher’s facilitator then wraps up the session by discussing how the new technologies can be incorporated into classroom lessons. “Once teachers have gone through the Hour of Creation experience, they have a better sense of what’s possible,” says Desjarlais.
Afterward, students receive a digital survey designed to gauge their experience. Facilitators then share the feedback with teachers to create a focus for the next session.
Since the program’s inception, some teachers have facilitated their own mini Hour of Creation session in their classrooms with green screens and iMotion stations.
One class used creation apps to explain the significance of the Boston Tea Party. “Students created a ship and people out of Legos, and then used iMotion to recreate the dumping of the tea into the harbor,” says Desjarlais.
Another class created a tour of great American landmarks and monuments using green screen technology.
Hour of Creation has been replicated more than 50 times in 35 elementary schools, and over 20 times in middle and high schools.
Since the program started, students have been extending their learning outside the school day and are eager to share creations they complete at school and at home. They also now explore additional apps on their own time, become experts, and then share their knowledge with teachers and other students.
“Since its inception, Hour of Creation has continuously evolved. Its future is bright,” says Desjarlais.