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Digital Teaching and Learning Technology

Digital Teaching and Learning Technology

Exploring new technologies: How Vista School is using integrated tech in and out of the classroom

Ivins, Utah (December 12, 2023) Troy Bradshaw, Director of Finance and Information Technologies for Vista School, understands that integrated technology is an essential tool for students to advance both academically and personally.

“Technology was part of our charter and written into our entire plan from the beginning,” said Bradshaw. “One of Vista School’s missions is to engage students using performing arts and technology, so they enjoy their learning experiences with other core classes such as math, science, language arts and history.”

The Utah Education and Network (UEN), in partnership with the nonprofit Connected Nation, recently finished their 2023 inventory of technology within Utah’s public and charter schools. Vista School took part in that inventory to identify technology gaps in its facilities, including network connectivity, wireless service, switching, labs and computers.

In 2015, UETN began tracking how technology is used in the classroom as well as the access teachers and students have to digital materials, devices and platforms. Data from the last inventory was released in 2021.

A school with a unique technology history

Vista School is unique in many ways, mainly because it is fairly new in comparison to other Utah schools. Located in the city of Ivins, the school seeks to enhance academic achievement by providing expert, specialized instruction in math, science, technology and history beginning in first grade.

The school was established in 2009, and Bradshaw served as one of the first board members. Vista School was created to broaden students’ academic experiences by providing them with opportunities to explore elective coursework in visual and performing arts and technology. Unlike many other schools, they have had a strong foundation of technology for students and faculty since the day they opened.

“We started off with a 1:1 ratio of technology to students and still have that ratio today,” said Bradshaw. “Our classroom technology is mainly Chromebooks, but it does differ between each grade.”

Vista School’s current breakdown of technology is as follows:

  1. Students in kindergarten through third grade have a set of Chromebooks for each of them to use in every academic classroom.
  2. Students in fourth through ninth grade are issued a Chromebook to use in class and also take home with them.
  3. Four high-tech labs feature iMacs and Dell desktop computers, where students work on digital media, music production, 3D printing (one lab has more than 20 3D printers), robotics and engineering.

Because technology is constantly evolving, Vista School administrators are dedicated to ensuring the school is advancing along with it.

“While we do have the Chromebooks for each student to use in every classroom, we have recently taken a more integrated technology approach,” said Bradshaw. “This moved us to focus on engaging students using technology and arts to teach core subjects.”

This level of technology integration has empowered Vista School students to compose and record music, develop robotics-enhanced sets for theatrical productions, lead the region in robotics and coding activities and more.

Using advanced technology to improve skills in and out of the classroom

One of the recent technologies school administrators and the IT department have integrated into Vista School’s curriculum is an educational robotics learning program. Learners start in the lower grades and build skills over time. Advanced students have built robotic-controlled rockets and go-karts, and designed solutions to real-world problems.

The curriculum has contributed to several student success stories, said Bradshaw. Two years ago, Vista School had three teams qualify for a world robotics championship, where one of the teams finished seventh. One of the students had to leave the tournament early and fly to Atlanta to represent Utah in the National Science Fair.

Integrated technology programming also provides benefits to Vista School students beyond graduation.

“Technology is a huge part of those students who find themselves and create pathways for the future, including college and career readiness.” said Bradshaw, citing a recent coding competition in which Vista School alumni, now in high school or college, won awards. “While they are no longer at Vista School, they are setting a standard in the community and leading others.”

How UEN inventory helps Vista School strive for a better technological future

Part of Vista School’s success can be attributed to its participation in the UEN Utah School Technology Inventory.

“The UEN inventory has helped us look at the bigger picture in our school,” said Bradshaw. “It seems or looks like we have tons of technology, but when looking at our inventory on a reporting basis, it shows us where those gaps and weaknesses are.”

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