Bridge Valley Elementary School Moves Students Forward with Technology

Schools in the Central Bucks School District have long been at the forefront of technological advancement in the classroom. But three years ago, when the staff at Bridge Valley Elementary School first began the rigorous and immersive process of becoming a Microsoft Showcase School, they had no idea the lengths to which this commitment would be tested.

Microsoft’s Showcase School program helps individual schools achieve a holistic digital transformation by allowing them to engage with Microsoft and a global community of peers, while providing extensive training to teachers and staff. Just 43 schools around the country have been awarded Showcase status, with Bridge Valley being the only school in the state of Pennsylvania.

While work on the application process began in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic a year later accelerated its implementation, said Bridge Valley Principal Kevin Cochran.

“It became essential during COVID,” he said. “The district has always been leading the way and pushing the envelope with technology use.  And once our school began this process, having our teachers trained to understand how to move students forward using innovative technological communication tools was critical.

“The energy that this program has brought to our teaching staff incentivizes them to keep learning and stay engaged. Technology evolves so quickly, so teachers need to be trained to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and problem-solving tools they need.”

Bridge Valley began the process through the Showcase Incubator Path, a multi-year plan to achieve a holistic digital transformation. The program is built around a school transformation process that engages with Microsoft and a global community to expand educational opportunities. Rather than seeing technology as a stepping stone, the program frames it as a launching pad for improved communication, accessibility, and flexibility.

During the pandemic, classroom instruction was suspended for only one week before Bridge Valley resumed  a full class schedule virtually through Teams, Canvas, Seesaw, and Microsoft 365. Microsoft Teams allowed teachers to form connections, while also receiving professionally targeted departmental training and full staff meetings. It also enabled mentoring, coaching, and collaborative opportunities through teacher conferences and professional development sessions.

The Showcase School process was led by teachers Meg Jaeger and Alexs Stapp, along with Sarah Rotella, Cochran and assistant principal Kate Deibert. Twenty teachers participated in extensive training to become Microsoft Innovative Educators. Through the pandemic and other challenges, Bridge Valley’s commitment to bringing equitable device access to all learners has now finally come to fruition, with exciting opportunities on the horizon.

As a Showcase School, Bridge Valley will be connected with more than 30,000 educators across 100 countries. School officials say they plan on continuing professional development, scheduling time for collaboration that enhances and differentiates instruction using technology, and ensuring equity for all students through technological accessibility by the avenue of 1:1 devices, curated online sources, and collaborative tools.