Moody touts digital transformation in chamber of commerce speech

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 18, 2015

The Rowan-Salisbury School System’s technological transformation is like remodeling a kitchen — it often looks worse during the process than at the start — according to Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent Lynn Moody.

Moody spoke to a crowd of people Thursday during the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s Power in Partnership Breakfast. Repeatedly, she said the technological transformation being implemented by the school system takes time. It takes bold leadership, she said, to stick to a plan when things become discouraging.

“In the middle of remodeling, you want to give up,” Moody said. “It is hard and it looks worse than it looked when you started. This past year has been about ripping down and ripping out everything we knew of traditional education.”

Moody never specifically addressed the school system’s recent dip in results in the state’s performance grades. A majority of schools in the system received a grade of D or F in the most recent state performance review. The results were mostly determined by test scores. When the results were released, Moody cited the system’s three-year strategic plan and implementation of a one-to-one technology program last year.

Her speech on Thursday was nearly identical to the reasoning she gave for the decline in an interview shortly after the grades were released.

During the Thursday speech, Moody rarely broke for a light-hearted joke and seemed laser-focused on touting the importance of continuing implementation of the system’s strategic plan, which involves the one-to-one technology program. She likened the digital transition to learning how to teach all over again.

Moody pointed out that textbooks often take years to replace. The most recent school textbooks wouldn’t include a complete list of U.S. presidents — omitting Barack Obama — because of the traditionally lengthy period between new purchases, Moody said.

The first students received laptops in August 2014, Moody said. With laptops and iPads, the system’s students could now touch a picture of a U.S. president and hear him speak, touch a hurricane and watch it move and enjoy a more interactive experience.

“We knew when we did the digital conversion it was going to take a lot of work,” Moody said. “Most of our students haven’t even had their device for a whole year yet. We have done an amazing amount of work in a very, very short period of time.”

Panning the crowd, she talked about the myriad of online applications and programs the system uses as instructional tools. She invited the crowd to attend one of the system’s community visits on Wednesdays.

“We would love for you to see what school looks like now,” Moody said. “I think you’re going to just be amazed.”

She told a story of visiting China Grove Elementary School. Guided by a few students, Moody recalled pointing to an encyclopedia and asking her guides what the books were.

“‘Dr. Moody, we’re sorry we have no idea what those things are,” she recalled the students saying.

Moody said continuing with the system’s strategic plan was important, but clarified her true thoughts on technology in education.

“Let me be really clear with you in saying that I don’t believe in virtual education as the only key,” Moody said during Thursday’s speech. “I don’t think that a piece of technology is the best way to learn subject matter. I think that it’s a tool to help facilitate that, but the teacher is always the key.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.