TIGER CLASSROOM INNOVATION: Spotlight on Kristi Swartz
During the 2016-17 school year the Loveland City School District debuted a new program to put part of the development of innovative educational practices directly in the hands of our teachers. Called the Innovative Classroom Grant program, winners were announced in March 2017. The district funded 11 projects total for the 2017-18 school year, including flexible learning spaces, the investment of four new Chromebook carts, digital microscopes and MakerSpace – a hands-on, project-based learning tool for science, technology, engineering, math and art.
As part of a special series highlighting the return on this investment, Director of Technology and Innovation David Knapp talked with Grant Winner Kristi Swartz about the difference the flexible learning space is making for our students…
David Knapp (DK): How did you develop the idea for the flexible learning space, and how does it work?
Kristi Swartz (KS): I first envisioned the idea during a recent trip to the Ohio Educational Technology Conference. At the conference, I was able to hear several teachers from across Ohio talking about their own flexible learning classroom space, and I was even able to connect with a few vendors in the exhibit hall who provided some really cool ideas with this model in mind. Thinking through some of the limitations that I was seeing with my ability to reach all students in regards to a traditional structure in my classroom (both physically and educationally), I started to design a concept that would give me and my students the physical environment we needed. I also was inspired through the book Disruptive Reading as I have incorporated elements of personalized learning and student learning targets to help foster student ownership of their work.
(DK): Now that your idea is being used, how have you seen the flexible learning space enhance the educational experience for your students day to day?
(KS): My students have so much freedom in regards to how they are working together and accessing the content. Because my students are more comfortable and feel empowered with choice and responsibility, I have noticed an increase in focus and motivation. My students learn together, teach each other, and, through collaboration and teamwork, have discovered that there are lots of different ways to get something right.
(DK): I understand what you mean – when I was in your class researching for this story I talked with one student who told me, “In Mrs. Swartz’s classroom, there’s never just one right answer. There are lots of ways you can show you know something. We learn more by getting it wrong than by getting it right! It’s more about HOW you get to the answer than the answer itself.”
(DK): What has been the most rewarding part of this process for you as an educator?
(KS): The most rewarding piece has been to see the passion and enthusiasm that the setup has inspired with my students. It has allowed me to teach differently and in a way that I feel truly establishes opportunities for specific student needs, while also creating an engaging and dynamic classroom setup.
(DK): Is there anything else you’d like to add?
(KS): I am constantly amazed at the new ideas students come up with in regard to this space. It has helped to establish a creative environment, and makes coming to school every day that much more fun! Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this opportunity for my students possible!
The complete list of winning projects included (by building):
Loveland Early Childhood Center
MakerSpace – Melanie Laurent, Becca Eldred
Loveland Primary School
Chromebooks for Kiddos – Paula Hickey, Lisa Schulok
Chromebooks for Kiddos – Scott Koehler
Chromebooks for Kiddos – Traci Stubenrauch
Flexible Learning Space – Jamie Meyer
Loveland Elementary School
Flexible Learning Space – Kari Kaiser
Chromebooks for Kiddos – Kevin Rodriguez
Loveland Intermediate School
Flexible Learning Space – Kristi Swartz
Loveland Middle School
Flexible Learning Space – Louise Jordan
Loveland High School
Digital Microscopes – Jaclyn Jones, Tonya Nkhata
Flexible Learning Space – Alex Wanstrath
Photo caption: Loveland Intermediate School Teacher Kristi Swartz engages with her students in a flexible learning space.