CNYRIC Featured Teacher: Brian VanGorder

Brian VanGorder
5th Grade
Caroline Elementary School
Ithaca City School District

Congratulations to our January 2016 Featured Teacher Brian VanGorder. Brian is a 3rd year 5th Grade teacher at Caroline Elementary School in the Ithaca City School District (ICSD). Mr. VanGorder has been an instructional leader during the district’s transition to Google Apps for Education (GAFE.) Over the summer he led professional development sessions on Chromebooks, GAFE tools and Apps for the elementary classroom.

What are some of the innovative ways that Brian integrates technology into his curriculum?
Mr. VanGorder, who has worked as both a Special Education and classroom teacher for the ICSD, exemplifies the risk taker and forward thinker that successful technology integration requires. He has been at the forefront of many of ICSD’s initiatives, working on technology committees and piloting one of the first 1:1 Chromebook classrooms in the district. Currently, his 5th grade classroom uses a 1:1 Chromebook model as part of the ICSD’s recent Chromebook deployment for 4th-12th grade students. Students in his classes encounter a unique classroom filled with vivid outdoor imagery, balance balls instead of desks, and individual Chromebooks. On any given day, he uses multiple instructional technology practices, resources and tools. Students review flipped classroom videos that support the day’s curriculum and then submit or interact with content on Edmodo. Later in a day, they might use Class Dojo, TedEd, Khan Academy, Weebly for Education or add content to their digital portfolios. With the district using Google Apps for Education, students have Google Drawings to create food web diagrams, Google Slides to collaborate on projects, and Google Docs to answer writing prompts. Many lessons include curated YouTube video clips chosen to support a lesson theme, prompt a student discussion, or provide supplementary resources. Mr. VanGorder continues to look for opportunities to integrate technologically, recently submitting a grant proposal to integrate drones into his classes. He plans to use them for students to monitor the adjacent Wilderness Campus as part of the science curriculum.

How have students benefited from Brian's technology integration initiatives?
Students directly benefit from Mr. VanGorder’s technology integration because he neatly fuses the classroom learning with the technological tools available in his school. A glimpse into Mr. VanGorder’s classroom is to see a diverse display of student engagement. Students work through choice and self-direction. The Chromebooks in Mr. VanGorder’s classroom allow his students to all operate off a central website called which he created and maintains throughout the school year. For each subject and unit, he creates detailed web pages that differentiate the instruction for the students as they access content. For example, as his students read a novel, each chapter has a dedicated page with read-along YouTube clips, vocabulary supplements in Google Slides, writing prompts with Google Docs, and embedded and detailed lesson objectives and guidelines. All students in his classroom maintain a Weebly digital portfolio where they store and reflect on the classroom work in ELA, Math, Social Studies, Science and Art. The students also keep a digital journal and maintain their own blog as part of their online portfolio. Mr. VanGorder’s classroom connects to home easily via a parent section on the classroom webpage where parents can check out what is going on in class, get answers to curriculum questions and student resources, or even schedule a parent-teacher conference. Read the full article.