St. Vrain Valley board hears update on Coal Ridge iPad program

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Students received tablet computers in January as part of pilot program

By Ben Wiebesiek

LONGMONT — Students at Coal Ridge Middle School are part of a new pilot program in St. Vrain Valley Schools to provide students with students iPad mini, a smaller version of Apple’s popular tablet computer.


The pilot program — also happening at Westview Middle School in Longmont — is part of the district’s Technology Learning Plan aimed at providing current electronic technologies to every high school, middle school and elementary in the district.

Chief Information Officer Joe McBreen described the district’s learning technology plan in an report to the school board Feb. 26. He said the plan is centered on three concepts: sustainability, equity and possibility.

“It’s really exciting to hear people all around the district at every level literally talk about things like sustainability,” McBreen said. “Just earlier this week, I had a conversation about, ‘so you mean in four years, you’re going to replace this?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Wow, that’s unheard of!’ It’s a new mind shift in education that we are investing in technology that has a built-in sustainability or refreshing plan. That’s really an extremely positive thing that allows us to build solid plans off of.”

In 2012, district voters approved a mill-levy override that, among other improvements, greatly strengthened St. Vrain’s capacity to equip students with 21st century technology tools, according to the district’s website. 

An Instruction Technology Advisory Committee was convened by the district to develop a set of recommendations for technology access, and from that committee’s work, the Learning Technology Plan was developed.

“The other one I know is important around our district is the concept of equity,” McBreen said. “It really doesn’t matter if you’re in Coal Ridge or Niwot — it doesn’t matter what your ZIP code is, our base fundamental technology provided by the district is the same in every classroom throughout the district. And that’s really an important thing to keep in mind.”

McBreen said that the standards the district follows have 150 explicit mentions of the use of technology.

“So gosh, it’s already baked-in,” McBreen said. “Finally, for the first time in our careers, technology isn’t something we’re doing on top of education or in addition to education; it’s part of education.”

McBreen said the use of electronic technology provides more opportunities for differentiation of education for all age levels, abilities and learning styles.

“The reality is our world is changing, our curriculums are changing are changing,” McBroom said.

Michelle Bourgeois is the project manager for the district’s learning technology plan, and McBroom credited her for the progress the district has made in executing the plan.

“One of the exciting things right now is that we’re getting a chance to explore with two of our schools. Coal Ridge and Westview middle schools are two readiness sites,” Bourgeois said. “So at the end of January, we deployed 1,500 iPads to their students, as well as their teachers several months before that so the teachers could prepare.”

Bourgeois shared quotes from teachers about the program, including one teacher who was excited that the quietest students in class would now have a new way to communicate in classrooms.

“The kids are excited; they want to be there,” Bourgeois said. “The other thing we’re hearing from our teachers and from our students it that it’s no longer that learning has to stop when the school bell rings.”

District Superintendent Don Haddad said he was Spark! Discovery Preschool, in Frederick, and he said it was amazing to watch children interact with today’s technologies.

“And we saw a whole host of preschool students sitting there in front of the computer with head phones on, navigating their way through technology,” Haddad said. “So you really do realize at that point that this is a different time.”


Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email bwiebesiek@metrowestnewspapers.com.