Hillbrook School and Microsoft Innovative Educator Presentation

Today’s itinerary took our group to the Hillbook School, an independent coeducational K-8 school in Los Gatos, Santa Clara County, California. Hillbrook was one of the first schools in the world to implemented a 1:1 take home iPad program and through digital citizen education is helping to lead the conversation about preparing children to navigate an increasingly complex digital world.

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Ilsa Dohmen, Head of the Learning Spaces project and Research Designer at Hillbrook introduced the group to a number of the school’s initiatives including education research, the Centre of Teaching Excellence and Resident Teacher program. One of the most exciting initiatives at Hillbrook is not specifically based on technology, but was inspired by it. When iPads came to Hillbrook, they quickly noticed that teaching and learning was instantly more mobile, and more flexible. They emptied the old computer lab, brought more laptops (in addition to iPads) to the classrooms, and were left with new possibility in the new space. In consideration of how environmental factors influence behaviours they attempted to create a space where students could be engaged, creative, collaborative critical thinkers. This involved stripping the area of anything that provided a directive of how the space should be used and introducing mobile furniture to create the Hillbrook Idea Lab. Students take ownership of their own learning environment and can arrange the room to suit their needs.

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Measured successes in student learning led to the roll-out of similar set ups in classrooms. The group viewed some of these classrooms and the original iLab which is now known as the Maker Space. Christa Flores, iLab Coordinator, explained to us the Maker Movement based on the premise that knowledge is a consequence of experience. In the Maker Space students can use tools and technology for various problem solving tasks that infuse experiential learning into the curriculum. Stations were set up for textiles, manual arts, 3D printing, laser cutting, electronics, graphic design and more.

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In the afternoon delegates met with Robin Hrivnatz, Microsoft Innovative Educator Master Trainer and Instructional Technology Specialist for the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District which enrols over 27,000 students. Robin discussed how she works with educators and learners to integrate technology revolutionising the classroom into the 21st century and prepare students for today’s workforce.

Robin explained an ICT Rubric for coding used to assess how technologies are used in ways that support and enhance learning activities. She then presented the group with examples of how she has seamlessly integrated technology to facilitate learning and not define it. Robin emphasised the importance of introducing new technologies as constructive mediums for students to create with technology and do things they couldn’t do before. For example, a large scale project where over 200 students worked in teams with members from across the globe using Microsoft 365, particularly Microsoft One Note, to undertake a collaborative a science investigation. Robin also showed examples of how she and teachers in her district are using 365 for collaboration, planning and professional development.

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The following resources were shared with delegates:
WorldWide Telescope
Avatar Kinect
Office Mix
The Microsoft Educator Network
ITL Research
and apps:
Physamagig, Novamind, I Explain, Augmented Anatomy, Create a Book, Corinth Micro Plant.

Overall a very inspiring day thinking about how learning spaces are being transformed in the physical and digital realms to change learning and how students interact. Are any of our tour delegates already working in agile classroom environments or using some of the tools/software Robin demonstrated at their school in exciting ways?

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