Photo: Students operating robots they built

In Vancouver, we believe in big ideas. Always have, always will. After all, one of the first schools in the state was established here in 1832. In 1929, we were among the first districts in the state to build a junior high school. We pioneered programs of choice and helped lead the way in National Board Certification for teachers.

Several years ago, we had another big idea: bringing one-to-one technology to students and teachers in order to transform learning and accelerate student achievement. This idea is about future-ready graduates.

Now we’re more than two years into our digital transformation, thanks to community support of the 2013 technology levy. One thing that’s clear as we scale up weLearn 1:1 is that we must learn together, as an organization, how to make the devices work for us, rather than us working for the devices.

We do this by operating in a culture of ubiquitous leadership, where everyone can use iterative design principles and deliberate practice to explore new areas. It’s a culture of creating and of problem-solving. Finding out what works and what doesn’t—the same approach to learning that we encourage in our students. It’s how we move forward and manifest our vision of weLearn 1:1. Big ideas become reality through action.

As Director of Instructional Technology and Library Services Mark Ray has pointed out in the past, “No amount of purchased hardware or digital content can mask weak instruction or program design.”

Our approach is working. We’ve become a district that others across the country turn to for guidance and ideas. This was especially clear in mid-April, when 150 education leaders from across the nation visited VPS as part of the League of Innovative Schools’ spring meeting.

Here’s what one of our guests, Dr. Steve Joel, superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools, in Nebraska, had to say about the work of our staff and students:

“No surprise to me that this is a very progressive and fast-moving school system that is trying to do great work for their kids. In the schools that I was able to visit today, what we saw was individual connections between staff and students, independent work, students able to work at their own pace and just a real commitment on the part of the professionals here to really make education work for kids.”

It’s true that here in VPS, we make things work. As Mark has said, we are makers, from our robust professional development and work in digital citizenship to our students, who are learning not just to consume content but also produce information and ideas. It’s our commitment to making and to creating that allows us to have big ideas.

Dr. Christine Johns, superintendent of Utica Community Schools, in Michigan, who also visited last month, summed it up nicely:

“You say you like to think big, dream big. You’re doing big things. You’re doing great things for students.”

I can’t wait to see what big idea we generate next.

Take care,

Image: Steve's signature