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Live in your world. Create in ours. The back story of our ISTE Board visit

On Friday, our High School was honored to be one of three schools to host visiting members of the ISTE Board who were in town for a meeting.  (The other schools on the tour were Science Leadership Academy and School of the Future.)

We began by posing this problem to a core group of students, students from Dan Meder’s Digital Video class.  If we had just a little more than an hour to show our school’s best use of technology to promote learning and creativity, what would that hour look like?

The Campaign from Spartan TV on Vimeo.

What followed was a Mad Men-inspired planning session. Students examined and deconstructed current effective commercial media campaigns. They planned, wrote, and produced spots highlighting various tech-infused learning spaces and linked them together using the Mad Men frame.  They (actually Mike R.) came up with the tag line: Live in your word. Create in ours.

We then considered how to share each of the students’ very short commercials in a modern, edgy way and decided on a QR code scavenger hunt.  We planned to have small groups of Board members looking for codes outside of participating classroom.  Each code would open a commercial teaser for the room’s activity before our visitors entered the space.

As more students joined our planning group, the QR code scavenger hunt evolved into a game.  Technology Director Kristen Swanson joined and helped to guide the student planning team.  Tammy Pirmann’s Game Design class created a virtual reality map designed to lead the groups around the school.  As they completed each of their short visits,  the small groups of Board members received a piece of a robot–designed by our Robotics Club–to bring back to the library (headquarters for the event) to be assembled at the completion of the tours.

We engaged teachers and students in our music, art, creative writing, drama, social studies, language arts, and many more classes.  Students manned stations across the school, sharing artifacts of their own work and pointing to learners in action. Lina, Rafiat, Matt, and Rehema shared their culminating research projects (created for Kristin Ward’s Graduation Project Class) in so many glorious new formats.

Nina and Maya did a fabulous job demonstrating what our library means to our learners in both its virtual and physical presence.  They shared their own excitement about research and communication tools and skills and they shared what it means to be a good digital citizen.  I was so proud!

Our own film kids met and filmed with the amazing Rough Cut film crew from the Science Leadership Academy who were following the tour over its three-school journey. (I hope that connection continues!) Our student photographers documented the event, as well

Board members observed our school in full creative action.  (They even got to see Marlene Thornton’s wacky and wonderful Creative Writing class filming an underwater story in the pool!)

Bottom line?

Not everything worked.  We didn’t have enough time for lunch. The QR codes didn’t load quickly enough.  Some of the reader apps didn’t pick up the codes.  After the Board members assembled the robot, the kids discovered its battery was dead.

But . . .

What ISTE did see was our kids creating, solving problems, acting as leaders.  It was almost better that the battery was dead and that we could watch the kids working together to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.  They interacted with our prominent adult visitors with confidence and pride.

Through my lens, Friday was a truly high-energy, student-planned and student-driven event that I don’t think our kids will soon forget.

I hope that the ISTE Board remembers it fondly too.

We so enjoyed your visit!

(Visit our wiki for more information.)

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Looks like it was a great day! I’m glad the Board got to see such an outstanding example of a school library that successfully integrates technology with teaching and learning.

  2. I hate the two QR Code Readers on my Blackberry. They are lousy scanners. So I hope they didn’t sweat that! I LOVE The Mad Men concept! So cute!

  3. It was an amazing visit and we were SO VERY IMPRESSED with your AWEsome kids, Joyce! And the library! ……[swoons] Truly gorgeous, inviting, energetic, and welcoming! I loved the art installations and as soon as a I got back to my school I met with my art teacher to bring more student work into our commons! I can’t wait! You and your kids are truly inspiring!
    ~Gwyneth Jones
    The Daring Librarian
    ISTE Board of Directors
    Dr. Joyce Valenza Devotee

  4. What a fantastic day with an amazing group of students and staff! The energy of the school was unbelievable and the sense of community that exists is exemplary. Kudos to the dedicated administrators for allowing the teachers and students to truly think ‘out of the box’ while ensuring the ‘standards’ were met. This is a day that I won’t quickly forget!

    Kara Gann
    ISTE Board of Directors

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