The Douglas County School District (DCSD) in Colorado can be designated as an avant-garde organization in view of the innovative way Syna Morgan, their Chief System Performance Officer, decided to use Toon Boom solutions as an assessment tool. Five elementary and two middle schools chose to embark on a pilot project and see how their students perform. DCSD includes over 70 schools with 3,600 teachers and 66,000 students.
The results have been nothing short of amazing. As an example, Eve King, fifth grade teacher,and Dawn Smith, technology teacher at Timber Trail Elementary in Castle Pines uses Flip Boom All-Star most often in science because it enables the students to demonstrate their thinking step-by-step. "Kids are showing their thinking about concepts and content that we're learning in the classroom in a very visual way. We can use it for both interim assessments to check along the way, which are the benchmarks that we're looking for and then it can also be used for the summative assessment of the final content," explained Eve.
Eve also finds using animation motivates students. While they don't realize that they are being assessed, as in a written test, it actually makes the work and the assessment fun. The goal for the design performance assessment is for students to deliver their solutions through animation. This allows teachers to quickly see any gaps in their student's thinking process and give them personalized feedback at the moment of the learning.
"When we put it into a visual format, they really have to break apart the content and show the steps of how something works or how things are connected to one another in order to then draw it out or animate it. For me as a teacher, it's very easy to see. They're storyboarding prior to the illustration what they do and do not understand, and where misconceptions lie if they have them," concluded Eve.
Dawn Smith, building technology teacher, continued rolling out Toon Boom to students and teachers in the third and fourth grades. Now all third, fourth, and fifth grade students have participated in a Toon Boom learning and assessment experience.
Dawn and Eve designed after-school enrichment animation program for grades 3 to 5 at Timber Trail. Sara Haynes, fourth grade teacher, took the after-school class with the students who were great tutors for her in the class. The software is so intuitive that the students picked up the animation quite quickly.
Jaime Bailey, the DCSD assessment specialist leading the project, explained that Grade 5 students are training Grade 1 students during after-school programs and the response is outstanding. Grade 5 students are now ready to use Toon Boom Studio for their next assessments.
Sand Creek elementary teachers participating in the Toon Boom pilot include Tera Montague, fifth grade teacher, Robin Schumacher, first grade teacher, and Brandon Peterson, professional development coordinator. They began the process where the fifth grade teachers partnered with first grade students and showed them how to animate a bouncing ball. Now both grades are using Toon Boom to capture student thinking around content and concepts relevant to their grades.
Sonja Herring, DCSD Cresthill Middle School teacher, uses Toon Boom as an assessment for students to show their critical reasoning. "Students had a much higher engagement level when asked to produce a YouTube style animation encouraging the American Revolutionary War or promoting loyalty to the British Crown than in any other causes of the Revolution project I've done before. They relished the opportunity to work together to publish a creative piece of propaganda using Flip Boom animation software," said Sonja.
In January 2014, the district sent its newsletter with information and results of the pilot project and several teachers expressed interest in being part of the second phase, which will start at the end of February. "We want a tool to measure the transfer of skills, such as perspective, argument, idea generation, creative thinking and critical thinking. It is all about using the content and transferring it to another subject matter and beyond the classroom. Toon Boom solutions serve as the perfect open platform to measure the hardest to measure learning objectives," added Jaime.
For the second phase, teachers who participated in the pilot project will be paired with the new teachers along with Toon Boom consultants. Building upon their first experience, the district is determined to provide its teachers with a very effective assessment tool that has proven to be very engaging for them and the students.
The Assessment and System Performance Office, under the direction of Syna Morgan, is currently drafting a summer teacher academy with the option to participate using Toon Boom as a tool for performance assessment.
Syna Morgan acknowledged that beyond an assessment tool, Flip Boom All-Star introduces students to the world of animation they may consider exploring further as a career path. Considering how quickly new generations are embracing 21st century skills, DCSD is a remarkable testament of how creativity amplifies the learning process and fosters students' achievements.