Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2013

SPENCER — Students in Corinne Mauldin’s forensic science class at North Rowan High School were working a crime scene when Bill Harrison, chairman of the N.C. State Board of Education, dropped in for a visit Thursday.
They were using iPads to collect photographic documentation of the scene, which included a busted donkey pinata surrounded by candy and a number a of possible murder weapons including a golf club and a piece of railing.
The iPads also helped the students keep track of the evidence they were gathering in an attempt to figure out who killed the Christmas donkey.
“We’ve managed to narrow it down to five suspects,” Mauldin said.
Mauldin said her students use the iPads for a number of things such as taking notes, completing tests and sharing information with one another using an application called Bump.
“The technology has been a wonderful, wonderful asset,” she said.
Harrison toured the school Thursday before an assembly in which he presented Principal Darrell McDowell with a large banner that read “2012 North Carolina Innovator in Digital Learning.”
“This is a big day in the history of our school and you’re the reason it is,” McDowell said to the student body. “I think sometimes we take for granted what we have … we have opportunities a lot of students don’t have.”
The school, which launched a 1:1 iPod Touch program in 2008 giving every student an iPad to use in the classroom and at home, was one of 10 in the state to receive the inaugural award from Gov. Bev Perdue.
iPads have been added to six classrooms, with plans to eventually have enough for the entire student body.
Harrison was impressed to see how engaged students were as he moved from room to room.
“For too long school has been about teachers doing the work and students sitting and listening,” he said. “What needs to happen is exactly what I’m seeing here, teachers are facilitating the work.
“(The students) are the ones who are engaged, they are doing the thinking.”
Students in Lisa Cline’s marketing management class used iPads Thursday to research the gross domestic product of a country of their choice. Using Pages software, they put together a mini poster that they later shared with the entire class.
“(The technology) has just opened up a whole new window,” she said. “I’m rethinking how to do lesson plans, how to teach and how to let them teach themselves.”
Cline said the technology also allows her to get through more material.
“It’s cut down on some of the assignments because they can get them done so much faster,” she said.
Phil Hardin, executive director of technology for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said the 1:1 iPod project began in order to address several issues at North Rowan including achievement, student engagement and the dropout and graduation rates.
McDowell said program give students exposure to technology that they might not have otherwise.
“Our kids are certainly smart, but we have some socioeconomic issues that have been a deficit in the past,” he said. “Technology has eliminated that … students have the access they need to ensure their own success.”
Harrison said the winners of the technology award are an example of what can be done.
“How do we make these pockets of excellence into the norm?” he asked. “We have 10 exemplars using technology in unique ways … we can hold these folks up and let other school systems learn from what they’re doing.
The approach doesn’t have to be “one size fits all,” Harrison said.
“We certainly have a set of standards that we all need to meet, but how we get there can vary.”
Harrison said districts have found ways to excel in technology even on limited budgets.
“We know what the fiscal reality is and we’ve got to be innovative and creative,” he said. “That’s what we’re seeing here at North Rowan.”

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.