Helping Rowan schools embrace the digital age
By Catherine Truitt
Special to the Salisbury Post
During the first year of his administration, Governor McCrory signed legislation which formalized our state’s transition to the adoption of digital learning. Digital learning — instruction that is enabled and enhanced by technology — moves our students from a one-size-fits-all approach to a system of personalized learning that puts students at the center of their educational experience. In prioritizing this shift, North Carolina has become a national leader in modernizing our schools and instituting changes to make our students competitive in a technology-based, global economy.
A digital transformation requires significant infrastructure investments, and during the past two years, the McCrory administration has leveraged over $97,000,000 in federal and state dollars to connect North Carolina’s public schools to robust Wi-Fi. By 2018, all public students in North Carolina will be one of the first states to enjoy this capability. In fact, Rowan County Schools will have received over $1.2 million in state and federal money this fall to provide equipment and services that allow a level of wireless technology that is reliable, sustainable and supports digital learning.
This is a crucial part of reforming our public schools. Technology has forever changed what it means to be college and career ready. For example, what we used to think of as “low-skill” jobs are now automated and require students to earn more specialized credentials of marketplace value. However, while expectations for teachers have increased, the toolkit we provide them has not changed — until now.
Since last October I have traveled to more than 30 schools in North Carolina that have already made the transition to digital-age learning. In my 18 years as an educator and turnaround coach, I have never witnessed anything that promises to improve teaching and learning that compares with what I’ve seen in places like Greene, Rutherford, Davie and Rowan Counties. And these counties have the data to prove it.
What is so unique about digital learning? A digital classroom gives students more control over the time, place and pace of learning. Through classroom devices — laptops or tablets — which contain current and relevant content, learning can take place anywhere, anytime. And learning can be tailored to a student’s ability and interest, thereby allowing the chance to master content before moving on to the next step — something that is impossible in a traditional classroom.
Also, assessments are integrated into daily activities, allowing teachers to address students’ struggles immediately. Parents will not need to wait for a nine-week report card to learn that their child is behind. Conversely, students who are ahead of their classmates can find unlimited opportunities to master the next challenge.
This seismic transition is not just about more “computers in the classrooms” or teaching students how to use technology. This is about using technology to fundamentally shift an existing culture of teaching and learning in which teachers are the focal point to one that puts students at the center of their own learning. In short, personalized learning through technology is a game-changer that will be the great equalizer our public system of education should be.
We are committed to transforming all North Carolina public schools to digital-age learning. Our state’s budget for the 2016-17 year includes $14.7 million in new money for additional resources to support this initiative, and our textbook and digital allotment fund has tripled to $71.5 million since Governor McCrory took office. Our schools need digital-age resources and our teachers and principals need training and support so they can effectively implement new ways of teaching and assessing their students. After all, we cannot educate the students of today with resources from the past.
Catherine Truitt, M.Ed., is Gov. Pat McCrory’s senior advisor on education.
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