IUSD music students are using an online recording studio that lets them compose, record and collaborate together.

Ahead of the digital curve

by TOMOYA SHIMURA

“These programs are so relevant and so engaging. What we have designed will be the envy of every district.” – STEM Director Chris Weber

Irvine students don’t have to wear a lab coat and stand around a table to dissect a frog.

They can learn about anatomy and conduct science experiments anytime, anywhere – even from the comfort of their home.

This is possible because Irvine Unified School District, ranked the No. 1 district in Southern California, has been able to quickly adapt to digital learning.

To get a look at how IUSD is thriving in this digital age, we asked the leaders of its STEM (science, technology,engineering and math) and arts and music programs to describe what’s going on.

DIGITAL STEM

“We are in a great place,” says STEM Director Chris Weber, who oversees a curriculum that has been designed from the ground up by the district’s science specialists and features hands-on, digital learning.

“These programs are so relevant and so engaging,” Weber says. “What we have designed will be the envy of every district.”

Elementary school students are using a program called Twig to build virtual museums of leafology; explore the Grand Canyon when it was still a swamp; and become earthquake engineers.

Middle school students can explore space and investigate how mountains are created using new interactive software programs that can be accessed in the class- room or at home.

High school students, meanwhile, have the ability to conduct more than 400 math and science experiments using a new digital platform called Gizmos. Some experiments take weeks to complete and monitor students’ progress in real time – using laptops or tablets.

“We are going to see things that we could
never have imagined – the explosion of creativity and talents.” – Arts and Education Director Brad Van Patten

THE FUTURE OF MUSIC

IUSD music students are plugged into an online recording studio that lets them compose, record and collaborate in real time through built-in chat and video calls.

It’s called Soundtrap, but IUSD’s director of arts education calls it “Garage Band on steroids.”

“Think about all the music you hear on movies and TV now,” Brad Van Patten says. “It’s all done on a digital audio workstation now. This is the 21st-century instrument. This is what Bach and Mozart would use if they had it.”

Music students at Portola High School already have created nearly 40 original songs together – without getting together in person – collaborating on Soundtrap. Soundtrap, which works on any web browser or through a mobile app, lets students do anything related to music and audio all in one place, from recording original music, to producing podcasts, to giving presentations.

“Once they get a hold of this, we are going to see things that we could never have imagined – the explosion of creativity and talents,” Van Patten says. “The possibilities are almost limitless.”


Irvine students lead California in science and arts

As a result of IUSD’s long-term investment in arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Irvine’s mean scores in Advanced Placement tests are higher than those throughout California – and the world.