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, Loveland High School (LHS) Innovative Instructional Coach Amanda Bimonte talked with Grant Winners Jaclyn Jones and Tonya Nkhata about the difference digital microscopes are making for our students…
Innovative Instructional Coach Amanda Bimonte (AB): How did you develop the idea for bringing digital microscopes to LHS?
Grant Winners Jaclyn Jones and Tonya Nkhata (JJ TN): The microscopes we had were not providing the educational experiences we wanted for our students. They were not able to see real evidence of abstract concepts like cells, diffusion, fermentation and mitosis. The old microscopes did not show real-time images. Students tried to draw what they saw, but the inaccuracies led to misunderstandings. Students with glasses and other physical limitations couldn’t use the scopes due to design flaws.
(AB): How have you seen digital microscopes enhance the educational experience for your students?
(JJ TN): Now all students can interact with the material in every unit; they can all see the images in real-time. Students are creating digital portfolios to demonstrate learning and use these for review. Students are being inspired, and so are we. Now we are able to teach a concept like stomata and the gas exchange on a leaf where it shuts at night and opens in the day. That is something we could never see in the past, and now students can see that process. With the digital microscopes, our students can engage in collaboration at a new level – not just in the room but also with other classes. Students can share videos and images and learn from one another. Right now we are planning some collaboration with classes from other buildings in Loveland. For example, pairing up second graders with ninth graders for a Bio-Buddy collaborative project. We are just at the tip of the iceberg with collaboration opportunities.
(AB): What has been the most rewarding part of this process for you as an educator?
(TN): When students approached me and said they wanted to have a Microscope Club that was a moment when I realized how this project was inspiring students to investigate the science more on their own.
(JJ): Many of these topics we can now teach were so challenging for my students who struggled to understand the abstract ideas. With the digital microscopes, I know that my students, who might never have been able to see some of these images and biology concepts, are able to not only see them, but also understand these concepts. We are able to provide the experiences that our biology students should have; often times, these higher-level experiences and concepts aren’t possible, but this tool enables us to make the challenging material accessible to all students.
(AB): Is there anything else you’d like to add?
(JJ TN): This project wasn’t just us. It was a community effort where we felt supported at all levels and stages. People invested in us, and now we can invest even more into our students. This helped to drive the innovation in our classrooms, and, as teachers, we are now in completely different places than we were when we started.
The complete list of winning projects
included (by building):Loveland Early Childhood CenterMakerSpace – Melanie Laurent, Becca EldredLoveland Primary School
Chromebooks for Kiddos – Paula Hickey, Lisa Schulok
Chromebooks for Kiddos – Scott Koehler
Chromebooks for Kiddos – Traci Stubenrauch
Flexible Learning Space – Jamie MeyerLoveland Elementary School
Flexible Learning Space – Kari Kaiser
Chromebooks for Kiddos – Kevin RodriguezLoveland Intermediate SchoolFlexible Learning Space – Kristi SwartzLoveland Middle School
Flexible Learning Space – Louise JordanLoveland High School
Digital Microscopes – Jaclyn Jones, Tonya Nkhata
Flexible Learning Space – Alex WanstrathUpper Photo caption: LHS Bio-Buddies Kaitlyn Lehnhoff, Taylor Barnett, Reilly Patton, with LHS Teacher Tonya Nkhata
Photo caption: Loveland students of all ages had a chance to work with the new digital microscopes during the State of Schools open house event February 2018.