National educational spotlight shines on Vancouver Public Schools

In April, 150 education leaders from across the nation converged in Vancouver to learn about the district’s weLearn 1:1 technology initiative. The conference, hosted by the nonprofit Digital Promise’s elite League of Innovative Schools, featured conversations with Vancouver Public Schools leaders and opportunities to see firsthand evidence of student engagement and teacher empowerment stemming from the use of a wide range of technology.

The quality of the district’s one-to-one technology implementation impressed visitors. Said Dr. Steve Joel, superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools, in Nebraska, “It’s 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.”

He added, “A lot of motivated students. A lot of motivated teachers. Technology just augments the great instruction very, very well.”

Vancouver School of Arts and Academics senior Caroline Brenner agreed. Brenner showed guests around her school, one of seven that visitors toured. “I think VPS is doing an awesome job with technology. It really enhances everyone’s education,” she said.

Eddie Sawyer, ITS, ITF

Learn more about Instructional Technology Facilitator Eddie Sawyer, who is helping steer the weLearn1:1 implementation.

Dr. Christine Johns, superintendent of Utica Community Schools, Michigan, praised the selection of apps, training on device usage and device security that enhance VPS’ flourishing digital culture. “We saw real, positive learning. It’s not just window dressing; it truly is using the tools appropriately,” said Johns, who, along with other visitors, represented many of the 57 League of Innovative Schools districts focused on successfully melding new technology with education.

This isn’t the first time that the district’s innovative technology use has drawn the educational community to Vancouver. In February 2015, the district hosted a Future Ready summit in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education. The summit shared VPS’ digital technology practices with colleagues from around the region.

The Department of Education later tapped VPS as one of nine districts nationwide that will tell their stories in a series of videos about technology in education. In April, video and research teams visited Hough Elementary School, Discovery and McLoughlin middle schools and the middle school campus of Vancouver iTech Preparatory to conduct interviews and collect footage. The completed videos will be available to other districts across the nation as they begin their own digital learning transitions.

VPS also has been selected more times than any other district to host the National School Boards Association’s annual educational technology site visits. The district has welcomed other school board members and administrators from across the country in 1993, 1999 and 2013.

Said Superintendent Steve Webb, “In VPS, we believe in the potential for big ideas like weLearn 1:1 to transform teaching and learning through technology. But this initiative is not about the devices. Technology tools enhance teaching and learning, not overpower it. We’re committed to helping all of our students develop the adaptive skills necessary to thrive in an interdependent economy and global community. We’re proud to be doing everything we can to ensure that Vancouver graduates are future-ready.”

This and other stories originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Inside Vancouver Public Schools.