The Digital Conversion Executive Summary
During the Fall of 2007, Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) crafted a systemic and comprehensive Strategic Plan. There was immediate consensus to organize the plan around the five goals approved by the North Carolina State Board of Education during September 2006, entitled Future-Ready Students for the 21st Century. These NC state goals are based on the language and goals within The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a nationwide advocacy group whose goal is to infuse 21st century skills into education.
The first step toward re-creating a district strategic plan was to identify mission, vision and values statements. This was accomplished by obtaining input from the district Leadership Team, which includes the Executive Team members as well as school principals, teachers, parents and community members. Subsequent to creating drafts of possible mission and vision statements, these were sent to school-based leadership teams who represent the entire school and develop school improvement plans. Input garnered from these teams was utilized to revise and redistribute district mission, vision and values statements. As a result, the following were adopted:
The vision of the Mooresville Graded School District is to be a state and nationally recognized school district through demonstrated success of all students.
The mission of the Mooresville Graded School District is to prepare every student, every day to be a successful and responsible citizen in a global workplace and community.
The motto of the Mooresville Graded School District is every child, every day.
Beliefs and Values
The staff of the Mooresville Graded School District embraces the following as representative of our beliefs and values:
- Decisions are data driven and student centered;
- We are a community of learners;
- Students are provided expanded curricular and co-curricular opportunities;
- Significant community and business partnerships are important for success;
- Technology-enriched, relevant curriculum and effective delivery of the curriculum are foundations for addressing diverse 21st century learners;
- 21st Century content (global awareness, civic literacy, financial literacy, and health awareness) is integrated into core content areas;
- District success hinges on embracing all students within an environment of pervasive caring that supports their optimal growth and success;
- Every student is successful when provided high expectations and sufficient support;
- All employees are treated as professionals and supported by sufficient resources and ongoing training designed to enhance and broaden skills that support the district vision, mission and initiatives.
Through the guiding principles and framework of this Strategic Plan, MGSD has embarked on an extraordinary and innovative journey. The school system, parents, community and various other partners and constituents have joined forces to realize a shared vision - A Digital Conversion. The purpose of the Digital Conversion Initiative is to employ technology in ways that improve teaching and learning through increased student engagement while teaching the NC Standard Course of Study focusing on reading and mathematics. It is imperative to note that this project is a curriculum and instruction project, not a technology project. Through this paradigm shift in methodology, we are changing the way teachers teach and students learn, while utilizing an awesome set of technological tools. MGSD is also a leader in implementing the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). NETS for Administrators, Teachers and Students are alive and thriving in MGSD.
Through the vision of Dr. Mark Edwards, Superintendent, MGSD started planning in 2007 for this transformation called Digital Conversion. Since that time, Mooresville has seen an enormous technological revolution. Over 4500 laptop computers have been deployed to every 4th through 12th grade student and all licensed staff across the district. Students and staff have access to these machines twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for all 180 school days. Laptop computers have significantly enhanced the level of student interest, motivation, and engagement in learning. Technology alone is not a panacea, thus the real focus is how we engage our students with this instructional tool to get results and add value to their academic performance. Students take their laptops home daily to complete assignments, homework, projects, and for research. The laptop provides students and staff constant access to the most current information available through the Internet as well as multimedia tools, which supplements materials presented in textbooks and by teachers.
As a component of the Digital Conversion Initiative, we realize the importance of digital learning with our youngest students as well. Therefore, digital, interactive SMART Boards, SMART Slates, and SMART Response Devices (Senteos) have been placed in every K -3 classroom in the district. It is exciting to watch our K-3 students become engaged with this new teaching and learning initiative, and these new digital tools.
Throughout this conversion, MGSD is living our motto: every child every day. By providing equitable access to every child, MGSD has all but erased the digital divide and truly leveled the academic and information-access playing field. In a district where the free and reduced rate has risen to 40% in 2010, providing technology for every child has been a “win win” for the students, school system and community. Every child having the powerful tools available through technology makes learning relevant and centered on each child’s individual needs.
As technology is integrated and infused within our instruction, digital content in the curriculum becomes a vital resource for students and teachers. The laptop will not entirely replace textbooks, although the district intention is to increasingly use a digital format for teaching and learning. The use of computers as an instructional tool is becoming increasingly important, just as technology continues to increase in importance in our everyday lives and in the workplace. Students in MGSD are leading the way with creativity of content and knowledge achieved. Moving into a constructivist model of teaching and learning, students are gaining valuable critical thinking, problem-solving and higher-order cognition skills. With laptops at their fingertips, they are becoming more globally aware of their citizenship as digital natives. Students approach learning differently now. Research, project based learning, and inquiry/problem solving activities are becoming second nature to MGSD students. Mooresville students now personify the performance indicators of the NETS for Students.
Providing a community of teachers and learners ready for the 21st century starts with our personnel. While this process is ongoing, MGSD is using a distributed leadership model to equip and empower our administrators, teacher leaders and classroom teachers with the skills and tools necessary to make a positive change in education. As stated earlier, the systemic vision from our superintendent flows through our administrative team and manifests itself in every educational area within MGSD. Professional learning communities and other heuristic groups have read and discussed works such as The Six Secrets of Change by Fullan, and Outliers by Gladwell. Through this process, comprehensive changes have occurred to push MGSD into the next era through continuous improvement. Our administrators and teachers are making the leap as Digital Immigrants to connect with the Digital Natives - our students.
MGSD placed a great deal of importance on professional development throughout this conversion. As such, a four-day summer institute was conducted in July 2008 and a three-day institute in July of 2009 to assist teachers with integrating technology within the classroom. Over 85% of the teachers participated in this voluntary training. In addition, five professional development early release days were added to the school calendar in 2008 - 2009, and that number will increase to 10 days in 2010 - 2011, for training for teachers. Ongoing sustained and targeted training regularly occurs in schools through our technology facilitators, media specialists, teacher leaders, and outside vendors. MGSD has made the transition from being teacher-centered district to a student-centered district. Teachers actively support students’ creativity and learning through day to day activities. With the tools and access available, lessons are centered around experiences that lead students to be active participants in their own learning. Student engagement has increased ten fold. Teachers model what it means to be a 21st century learner and a global citizen.
Through a variety of funding sources including local, state, federal, as well as grants, MGSD has started this conversion and has developed a comprehensive ten-year financial plan to continue it well into the future. Due to the nature of this conversion and paradigm shift, many traditional funding sources are now being used to help support this initiative. MGSD has reallocated many resources including instructional materials as well as personnel.
MGSD has invaluable instructional and technical staff to support an initiative such as this. MGSD employs seven full-time technology facilitators (one per school) and eight media coordinators (one per school with the high school having two). These individuals are leading the way with the curriculum and with the integration of technology into instruction. In addition, seven members of the technology department and four help desk managers provide technical support for 4900 laptops and another 1000 desktops. The durability of the machines and the care taken by students make this a very manageable task.
The MGSD Board of Education has provided strategic leadership, policy change and direction for this initiative. Through the Strategic Plan passed in 2008 and support of this culture shift, they have helped guide and provide supporting policy. One example of their involvement and oversight is how they helped change our “Acceptable Use Policy” to a “Required Use Policy.” They recognized that the terms for use of technology are no longer simply acceptable, but must be required.Not only will our students benefit from participation in this partnership, but due to the systemic nature of our Digital Conversion, all teachers, faculty and community members reap the benefits of this progressive 21st century initiative. This Digital Conversion, already in process, puts MGSD at a crossroads for success. MGSD staff, students and community are fully invested and immersed in this project and plan to continue it for years to come.