It’s Not Just about the Laptops

file:///Users/Ginny/Desktop/MOOC/Mooresville%20School%20District,%20a%20Laptop%20Success%20Story%20-%20NYTimes.com.webarchive

I am currently enrolled in my first MOOC, through NC State, called Digital Learning Transition.  If you don’t know what a MOOC is… I won’t tell you.  Look it up, learn about it, sign up for one.

Each of the 8 weeks, we are given units of study.  These units include videos to watch, articles to read, goals to pursue.  The link above was one such article.  I was excited by what the Mooresville, NC School District has taken on.

Now, instead of summarizing the article, I am going to paste the key statements (in my opinion).  Although, I highly suggest going to the link, reading the article, and perusing the comments- which are very interesting.

Points of Interest:

“This is not about the technology,” Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, would tell the visitors later over lunch. “It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction — preparing students for their future, not our past.”

Sixty-five jobs were eliminated, including 37 teachers, which resulted in larger class sizes — in middle schools, it is 30 instead of 18 — but district officials say they can be more efficiently managed because of the technology. Some costly items had become obsolete (like computer labs), though getting rid of others tested the willingness of teachers to embrace the new day: who needs globes in the age of Google Earth?

Mooresville’s laptops perform the same tasks as those in hundreds of other districts: they correct worksheets, assemble progress data for teachers, allow for compelling multimedia lessons, and let students work at their own pace or in groups, rather than all listening to one teacher. The difference, teachers and administrators here said, is that they value computers not for the newest content they can deliver, but for how they tap into the oldest of student emotions — curiosity, boredom, embarrassment, angst — and help educators deliver what only people can.

Many classrooms have moved from lecture to lattice, where students collaborate in small groups with the teacher swooping in for consultation. Rather than tell her 11th-grade English students the definition of transcendentalism one recent day, Katheryn Higgins had them crowd-source their own — quite Thoreauly, it turned out — using Google Docs. Back in September, Ms. Higgins had the more outgoing students make presentations on the Declaration of Independence, while shy ones discussed it in an online chat room, which she monitored.

In math, students used individualized software modules, with teachers stopping by occasionally to answer questions. (“It’s like having a personal tutor,” said Ethan Jones, the fifth grader zooming toward sixth-grade material.) Teachers apportion their time based on the need of students, without the weaker ones having to struggle at the blackboard in front of the class; this dynamic has helped children with learning disabilities to participate and succeed in mainstream classes.

Many students adapted to the overhaul more easily than their teachers, some of whom resented having beloved tools — scripted lectures, printed textbooks and a predictable flow through the curriculum — vanish. The layoffs in 2009 and 2010, of about 10 percent of the district’s teachers, helped weed out the most reluctant, Mr. Edwards said; others he was able to convince that the technology would actually allow for more personal and enjoyable interaction with students.

“You have to trust kids more than you’ve ever trusted them,” he said. “Your teachers have to be willing to give up control.”

“There’s a tendency in teaching to try to control things, like a parent,” said Scott Allen, a high school chemistry teacher in South Granville, N.C. “But I learn best at my own pace, and you have to realize that students learn best at their own pace, too.”

Of course, not everything is running smoothly in Mooresville, which you can read in the article.  I, however, am focusing on what is going well.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it.

Ginny

One thought on “It’s Not Just about the Laptops

  1. Love this…
    Many students adapted to the overhaul more easily than their teachers, some of whom resented having beloved tools — scripted lectures, printed textbooks and a predictable flow through the curriculum — vanish. The layoffs in 2009 and 2010, of about 10 percent of the district’s teachers, helped weed out the most reluctant, Mr. Edwards said; others he was able to convince that the technology would actually allow for more personal and enjoyable interaction with students.
    Helped weed out the most reluctant…I’m sure this was not a popular statement, but I have to say I understand what he is saying, and it’s a reality. If you are not able to change or willing to support the change, why stay?

    Like

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