Travis Lape is the Harrisburg School District’s Innovative Programs Director and was the recipient of the TIE Technology Leader Award for the State of South Dakota. He co-hosts the Movers & Makers Podcast and helped host over 8 Edcamps in South Dakota in the past three years.
I’ve followed Travis on Twitter for several years about his work with Makerspaces and personalized learning. Then I met him at the TIES conference in Minnesota last year. We had loads of fun then so I had to make sure he joined me on a podcast. We added some excerpts from the podcast below:
Your background and family
When I graduated in 2010 from the University of SiouxFalls (USF), I went into teaching right away. I taught 4th grade at a low socio-economic school teaching at an elementary school in Sioux Falls, Lowell Elementary at that time was the Science, Math, and Technology school. It was a lot of fun and a great year. Prior to teaching, I was a travel softball coach for several years. Then, after a year of teaching, I got a unique opportunity to be the head coach at USF to help transition them from the NAIA ranks to the Division 2 NCAA ranks. My passion was with coaching and teaching. I was not married at the time and couldn’t pass this up. I was the head coach for two years and transitioned them to Division 2 with pieces in place to be successful to hand it over to the next coach.
In that process, I got married and didn’t want to live on the road as much as I was doing. My wife is a teacher who shared with me that Harrisburg School District had an opening for a technology integrationist role. A family is super important to me and I wanted to be at home more. I applied and got the job as Technology Integrationist at one of the elementary schools for a year. My wife and I have a 2 ½-year-old son, DJ, who we adopted two years ago.
My background was elementary education. My first school we used iPods so I spent a lot of time searching to catch up on technology. The place I found support was on Twitter and several Edchats. I was on fire because I got connected to some powerful educators in the field doing that type of work for years. I was able to take ideas and piece them together to make them work for our building. My principal and I had planned for over a year to remake the library into a Makerspace due to Laura Fleming @LFlemingEDU and Shannon Miller @shannonmmiller until he left to take another job in Iowa. That was when Darren Ellwein @dellwein came into the picture and said that his middle school could use my services as a technology integrationist working with teachers in the classroom and to make a Makerspace in the library.
That was when Darren Ellwein @dellwein came into the picture and said that his middle school could use my services as a technology integrationist working with teachers in the classroom and to make a Makerspace in the library. That was the best professional move I made and stayed there two years while working on my masters in administration as well. Darren and his staff are incredible and helped shape the tech piece for me. We were able to bring tech into the classroom to make it meaningful rather than just a device kids use. Then I became an Assistant Principal at an elementary school where we focused on personalized learning. That was a unique situation where the district needed to APs at that school just for one year. I loved it and, at some point, I’ll end up being a building principal.
About a Makerspace
Innovative Programs Director
This was the first year for an Innovations Programs in our district. As director, it has been really good for me to have a district view and vision. I don’t feel like I’ve worked a single day yet. I love it but change is super hard and not easy for the faint of hearts. Not everyone is happy about changing school structures. The one thing we all have in common is a school experience and everyone has an opinion on how a school should operate. When you have that much of a dynamic, it is super hard. Our district has paved the way for our innovation in the idea that kids deserve better.
TIES Technology Leader Award
About five years ago, our high school wanted to change by adding more flexibility of time in classrooms. In that process, they came across customization which could be interchangeable with personalized learning. Every freshman got into the program and there was not a lot of soft skill building. For 9 years they were told what to do and when to take a test or turn in a paper. Then in their freshman year, their world was turned upside down telling them that they were in charge of their learning. They would have to prove mastery with artifacts and evidence learning.
To really have systemwide change, we found that you need to start personalizing learning in the early grades and let those parents be your flagship carriers. Then they will be the ones questioning what school will do for their children. We kind of did it backward, but we had a bold school board who stuck it out. We decided to offer choices at the high school and that’s when the middle school started with the sixth grade. This year it is 6th/7th and then the following year we’ll bring in 8th grade.
Getting Rid of Grade Levels at the Elementary Level
In elementary, we look at it through a whole different lens. We decided to meet the learner with the right content with the right facilitator at the right time and give them voice and choice in how they prove their learning and have them part of the learning process. We got rid of grade levels and focus on the whole child and what they need for their education. When you think of that I think of a graphic that Ken Grover from Utah shared with me. His graphic starts at the base of a triangle with all learners can learn. If you believe that, then you need to put in an invisible structure to support those learners. Elementary students still need structure and support. Then identify the instruction and then the tools. Tools need to be brought in last.
We identified the best practices that are already in our classrooms and then put them in a personalized learning environment. In our elementary schools, we have created unique learning environments where we have taken age levels of what traditionally would be 2nd thru 5th graders and put them all in a community together with four learning facilitators. In each cohort, there are roughly 85-95 learners. Our whole goal here is to support them where they are at in their learning. Empower them to drive and take a hold of it. It is incredible to see the ownership they take in their learning when they have control.
The first ten days of school we spent a lot of time developing SOPs (standard operating procedures), building relationships and working on Habits of Mind. These ten days were vital to our program’s success because it is the foundation that we work on each day.
Movers & Makers Radio
Travis Lape is the Harrisburg School District’s Innovative Programs Director. He earned his B.A. Elementary Education and Master in Leadership at the University of Sioux Falls where his research focused on personalized learning models for Elementary and Middle Schools. In 2016, Travis was the recipient of the TIE Technology Leader Award for the State of South Dakota and is also an ambassador for seesaw, Flipgrid, and squirrels. He co-hosts the Movers & Makers Podcast as well as blogs about all things in education at Lens into Learning and helped host over 8 Edcamps in South Dakota in the past three years.
Travis is constantly pushing the newest tools to support creativity and innovation in our classrooms. He is passionate about Makerspaces, personalized learning, and helping teachers become connected educators. Travis travels and works with districts all over the midwest on making school-wide changes.
About me: https://about.me/travislape
Twitter: @Travislape – Follow #epiclearners