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Creating Capacity to Apply

Our Digital Tools

 

BY MARK EDWARDS

Our school district often hosts visits from educator teams eager to see what the Mooresville Graded Schools are doing in the digital arena through our 1-to-1 laptop initiative.

A recent interaction by one such team was typical. Reflecting on what she had seen, the visiting superintendent, Diane Robertson of Mendon, Ill., excitedly told me: “Several students offered to show me their online projects, their grades and even forecasted how they would do on the next test!” This revelation prompted her colleagues to relate similar observations.

What was remarkable to all of them — and to those of us working in the school district — was the value of immediate information about how an individual student is doing. When a teacher and student have real-time feedback about the student’s performance, it allows them to focus together on areas needing improvement and building the student’s capacity to be successful.

How in four years have we built capacity to use our new digital tools? These are the principal ways:

SUMMER INSTITUTES. Professional development sessions for all teachers differentiated by content, grade and types of digital tools and content are held during a three-day institute each summer in the school district. Attendance is optional, yet we have seen participation at an all-time high last summer (90 percent). Teachers receive a $100-per-day stipend.

EARLY-RELEASE DAYS. Ten times a year, students are released at noon, and the rest of the day is devoted to professional development, data analysis, collaboration and planning among all teachers and administrators.

ADVANCE DEGREE COHORTS. In partnership with two local universities, the school district has established two master’s degree cohorts, one in leadership and one in instructional technology, and a doctoral cohort. We offer a $1,000 tuition reimbursement per year for all employees.

TEACHER-LEADER TRAINING. Teacher-leaders (department and grade-level chairs) are involved in leadership seminars throughout the school year to build leadership capacity and synergy. Socratic book discussions, cross-department and grade-level planning and articulation are a focus of these half-day sessions led by district administrators.

LEADERSHIP RETREAT. Each summer, all administrators spend two days working on building leadership connectivity and effectiveness. We use a book study (last summer we read Daniel Pink’s Drive) to stimulate dialogue, introspection and plans for improvement.

SUMMER CONNECTION. We stage a summer conference for school districts from around the country interested in implementing their own digital conversion. Our teachers, tech staff and administrators plan and direct the conference, which is an invaluable means to invigorate growth as individuals and teams. Last year, we had 400 attendees from 28 states.

VISITATIONS. Each month we designate one day as an open house for up to 50 visiting educators from around the country to observe Mooresville in action. This opportunity allows us to showcase our efforts. Over the past three years, we’ve hosted visiting educators from 42 states.

For information about scheduling a visit, contact Tanae McLean at tmclean@mgsd.k12.nc.us.

 

 

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