Teaching and learning have been transformed by a Digital Conversion at Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District. Creating a blended learning environment has resulted in personalized, standards-based instruction and an increase in student engagement. This web seminar, originally broadcast on January 29, 2014, featured leaders from Mooresville, who shared strategies for beginning a 1:1 blended program, how to shift instructional practices to be more student-centered, and the role effective digital resources have played.
Chief Technology Officer
Mooresville Graded School District
At Mooresville, we are very focused on personalized, relevant and connected learning with every student. Our motto for our district is “every child, every day.” We are 1:1 for grades 3-12. But this is about changing the teaching and learning environment, not about the device itself. Instead of the teacher being “on stage,” they are on the side as the guide and facilitator of instruction. Our superintendent likes to say that we have a moral imperative to do what is best for students. For us, one example is our Digital Conversion initiative, and meeting students in the digital space. We have made slow and steady progress these past six years. End-of-year assessment scores and attendance have increased and our dropout rate has decreased.This initiative is all about precision in the classroom. With technology as a tool, we can be extremely precise with all students. Before, if a teacher taught a lesson and 30-40 percent of students did not get it, the teacher would re-teach that lesson to the whole class. We do not do that anymore. With the technology we have, we can hone in and individualize instruction based on the needs of each student. We have moved from traditional student learning—based on the rote memorization of facts—to instruction based on cognitive science. Students construct meaning and make connections through multiple resources. Technology is a great way to facilitate that process; it multiplies our educational potential exponentially. President Obama visited our middle school last year and commended our “fundamental belief that no matter who you are...every child can learn.”
6th Grade Math & Science Teacher
Mooresville Graded School District
One important step Mooresville made in our Digital Conversion was giving devices to teachers first; for 1:1 to work, teachers must get comfortable and begin collaborating. When they plan lessons together, they can use each others’ strengths. Administrators need to be cheerleaders for their staff. Begin staff meetings by sharing the great things seen in classrooms. Invite teachers to share what they are doing that is successful. It is important to not try too many new things at one time. It can get overwhelming. At Mooresville, we master one piece of technology or a program or application before moving on to something new. Some teachers are going to be quick to master different programs; these early adopters can help others. Good classroom practices are still important in this new environment. Modeling is key, and that is never going to change. It is not about throwing away everything you learned in school or in your years of experience. You simply bring those skills to the 1:1 environment. Administrators and teachers need to understand that it should not be all about the technology. It is not “all digital, all the time.” If you walked into a Mooresville classroom, you are not going to see every child staring at a computer screen all day, every day. What this Digital Conversion is about is best practices and doing things that make good instructional sense. For example, sometimes my students still take notes on paper, because that may make sense in a particular situation.
When beginning a blended learning program, it is essential to make a concerted effort to move from teacher-led instruction to student-led instruction. How do you do that? If a teacher plans correctly, this happens naturally. Students need to figure out answers for themselves. I involve them in decision-making throughout instructional lessons. When North Carolina adopted the Common Core Standards, I needed to learn the standards as I was teaching them. A great strategy developed from necessity. My students and I break down the standards together. We work together to come up with a list of questions they need to be able to answer at the end of a unit to show they have mastered the standards. They own their learning this way. When a visitor comes into my classroom, they may ask, “Where’s the teacher?” Sometimes I may be at my desk, or in the back of the room, or in the middle of a group of students. The point is that I am not standing at the front of the room, telling students what they need to know. It is my job to know where each of my students is, what they are working on, and to push and help them to do their best. Smith: One of the things we have concentrated on in Mooresville is how to provide a blended learning environment that meets the needs of our students. We have moved into the world of digital content, which is ever-changing and constantly being updated. One key to working with digital resources has been selecting partners that understand our environment and goals. Knovation has been a partner of ours from the beginning of our Digital Conversion in 2005.
Vice President Learning Architecture Services
It has been great to be in a two-way partnership with Mooresville, as they use our great digital content and they assist us with research and development.
Menkel: I have enjoyed my relationship with Knovation because they ask the people who will actually be using a product what the product should provide to students and teachers. They want to hear from me and my students. Sometimes, we will pass along feedback, and a few weeks later, we see our feedback reflected in a Knovation product! Many times products are developed by people who have not been in a classroom, or have not been a teacher for a very long time. Knovation products are built for teachers and students with their input.
Ochs: At Knovation, we have been in the business of providing standards-aligned digital content to schools for 14 years. Recently, we have focused on developing solutions that address what the right instructional practices are as a district moves into blended learning with digital content. These solutions address questions such as, once content is delivered to my students, how do I know they are consuming it and truly comprehending the material? How do I guide them, right at the point of learning? Susan, can you offer any advice for teachers on selecting the right content?
Menkel: I recommend speaking with others who have been using digital resources. At Mooresville in 2005, we did not have anyone to ask, so we had to try out many things. With Knovation’s icurio platform, the guesswork is taken out of it. You can search for resources by Common Core State Standard. Knovation has done a great job at breaking down reading levels within icurio as well. Before icurio, my students had to read instructions in one place, access resources and respond in another place. Now, in icurio, I can place instructions for a particular activity, a dropdown menu with a list of websites, and a response area all on one page. Everything is right there. My job is to know my students. That can be really difficult in a traditional classroom. With icurio, and with the fact that students can now send me feedback and notes, I can know where they are at all times. I address all feedback I am given. We communicate and build relationships. With icurio, I can interact with all of my students, every day.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: www.districtadministration.com/ws012914