When Turner Valley School, located in Alberta, Canada, chose to update its library, it did more than just bring technology into the learning space.
The school decided it wanted to completely transform its library into a learning commons in order to provide students with innovative, 21st century learning experiences.
“We wanted to innovate and change the layout of the school libraries in the Foothills School Division. I have this particularly expansive space at Turner Valley School and I was fortunate enough to be in line for a complete renovation from top to bottom,” says Carol Webb, the learning commons librarian at Turner Valley School. “My space has been completely re-done and is completely modernized with a focus of it being the nerve center of the school. That’s why we wanted to bring in the latest state of the art technology.”
That state of the art technology is the Nureva Span classroom collaboration system, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model that enables collaboration on an expansive 40’ (12.2 m) digital canvas. The cloud-based solution leverages student devices to help them develop 21st-century skills, and enables them to contribute drawings, pictures, and text from their own devices at any location and at any time.
“By becoming an extension of the classroom, it has enriched the space and places that kids can learn throughout the schools. It has made my learning commons a real hub of knowledge in the school and kind of the most valuable real estate now in the school,” says Webb.
The partnership between Turner Valley School and Nureva began after a former district tech director mentioned to Nureva that the school was looking to transition its library into a more collaborative, active space. Given that the Span system is focused on bringing more collaboration to the classroom and enables every student to contribute to the virtual canvas, Turner Valley felt the technology could deliver the collaborative experience the previous library was lacking.
With the help of the school division’s tech team and Nureva professionals, Turner Valley’s library was renovated and designed particularly for the Span system. This allowed for an easy installation, despite the various hardware and software that needed to be installed.
“There is a projector that is installed and a mounting plate. There’s also a touch module that gets installed below the projector and then there’s a surface that goes on the wall,” says Nancy Knowlton, the co-founder and CEO of Nureva. While the Span system can be projected onto a painted wall, a smooth wall surface works best for students to touch and interact with different media.
Nureva has also provided Turner Valley with ongoing support and professional development, which has helped teachers learn how to best leverage the Span system and create engaging, active learning experiences.
“Nureva held an in-service workshop and provided ongoing support for teachers who wanted to implement new ideas. They introduced the technology to the entire staff through a professional development day and that generated a lot of questions and feedback,” says Webb. “That was an important piece, educating the staff.”
Since the implementation of the Span system, student participation has greatly increased.
“What Turner Valley has particularly commented on is that the students really like being able to contribute,” says Knowlton. “There are many scenarios where the teacher asks for input from students and one student is selected to answer. In that scenario some of the quieter kids never offer a contribution, so this technology enables the quiet kids to speak up actively and contribute.”
Students’ contributions are anonymous at the time of contribution, encouraging more students to share their opinions and ideas. That anonymity goes away, however, when teachers export the file into Excel. When files are exported, back end information provides teachers with details as to who contributed what data. This not only helps teachers gain an understanding of the information students are contributing, but also helps them hold students accountable for sharing thoughtful, appropriate and meaningful opinions and information.
Beyond increasing 24/7 collaboration, the Span system has also allowed staff to expand their communication.
“We have a Skype call with Singapore to talk about recycling with a civil engineer, so it has not only brought a lot of student collaboration into the learning commons, it has also allowed us to be part of the wider world,” says Webb.
For other districts looking to increase collaboration through the use of technology such as the Span system, it’s important that teachers and staff stay open-minded about technology, and also have support from their fellow colleagues and community.
“I think when you’re dreaming big about technology, it’s exciting to keep an open mind. I think you need to adopt a process for implementing new technology so that you move forward at a slow and steady pace,” says Webb. “It’s important to really encourage technology leaders and to give them support. It’s always about supporting those early adopters, the ones who want to get their feet wet quickly and giving them a bit of autonomy because they’re the ones who will move your implementation forward.”
Webb says that with enthusiasm and support from the rest of the district, the Span system has helped to greatly expand learning opportunities at Turner Valley.
“I have teachers wanting to sign out the space and kids coming down just really excited to be in the learning commons. It’s made it very vibrant and made it an attractive and welcoming learning space where kids can do more exploratory learning without necessarily having that assessment piece or classroom structure.”
Check out the video below to learn more about how the Span system transformed Turner Valley’s library into an active learning space.