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DCSD students take leading role at Denver Comic Con

DENVER – The focus of Comic Con is often superheroes, which is probably why Douglas County School District (DCSD) students and their teachers fit in so well at this year’s event in Denver.

While the Douglas County kids are not necessarily faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – they are using their powerful passion for pop culture to master titan-sized 21st century skills that will prepare them to conquer the college or career of their choice.

“The kids are inspired and jazzed to be [at Comic Con]. In this superhero filled environment, they are the ones on display,” explained Comic Con volunteer and organizer Chris Abbey. “They get the same kind of display that we’d give to an actor or actress that would come to our show.”

Abbey, who, like Clark Kent, has a day job, says he has seen how powerful learning can be when you tap into a student’s passion. As a School Technology and Innovation Partner with DCSD's Information Technology Services department, he works to expand the opportunities students have. The connection with Comic Con was easy to see.

“The goal of Comic Con is to use elements of pop culture to engage and entice and empower students to use the things they’re in love with—comics, artistry and literacy,” Abbey said.

LEARN MORE: Denver Comic Con's Pop Culture Classroom

Groups representing several DCSD schools were showcased in Denver Comic Con’s Edge exhibit, alongside universities, developers and tech companies like SparkFun. Over the course of the three-day event, students from several DCSD schools were represented. Attendees could learn about robotics from Pine Lane Elementary students, MinecraftEDU from middle schoolers at Castle Rock Middle School, 3D Printing from STEM students at Mountain Vista High School, or how Ponderosa High School students are pitching in on information technology work at the school through the SAinT's class. They could even see how a 3D printer works.

“It was an incredible experience,” explained Cate Beck, the technology teacher at Pine Lane Elementary. “They really enjoyed showcasing what they had learned to all kinds of people of all ages. They facilitated the conversations and showed the kids how everything worked. They enjoyed the experience of being the experts.”

“It gave kids an authentic audience to really showcase their learning and connect it to an event,” said DCSD Professional Development Coordinator Brandon Petersen. “It was really awesome.”

“We have had steady traffic,” added DCSD School Technology and Innovation Partner Mark Blair. “The entire time we’ve had parents and kids from our community coming through, saying, ‘wow, that’s really cool technology. That’s really cool stuff.’”

“Parents would ask, ‘you would really let this happen in our schools?’ And we would say ‘yeah. Absolutely. Why wouldn’t we?” Petersen said. “When we use their passion about pop culture into the classroom we get [student] buy in. They’ll come to school every day if it is related to things they’re interested in.”

The hope is that by placing students in an environment where they can make connections with real-world developers, they will see that their passion can result in far more than a hobby. They may be embarking on a lucrative career.

“A lot of people think that video games or playing with robots on the floor with an iPad is a hobby. No, these are careers,” Abbey said. “Kids sitting on the floor, rolling glowing blue orbs across the floor is an introduction to programming. We are preparing people for an industry that is just growing and expanding right now.” 

Abbey says they hope to expand on the success of the Edge exhibit next year,creating a lasting impact on both the students who participated and kids who visited for years to come.

“What you love could potentially be your dream job,” Abbey added. “Don’t stop believing in what you do and don’t give it up. Our big hope is that last year’s attendees be next year’s exhibitors.”

Schools interested in incorporating Minecraft, robotics, 3D printing, and other tech activities into learning, may contact their School Technology and Innovation Partners (STIP) division of DCSD's Information Technology Services.

May 26, 2015 | By rmbarber | Category: Professional Development, District, Elementary Education, High School Education, Information Technology, Middle School Education, Schools

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