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East Coast educators tour Rowan-Salisbury schools, talk technology in education

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Dozens of educators from across five states poured into Salisbury on Thursday morning to “go and see” what’s happening in Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

The two-day conference was originally meant to be a showcase for the biannual meeting of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, which was to be hosted by RSS.

But in January, the national league pulled out as organizers cited House Bill 2 — the state’s controversial “bathroom bill.” About 24 of the league’s 86 school systems are barred from traveling to North Carolina by their state legislatures because of the bill.

By that point, Superintendent Lynn Moody said, students and teachers had spent almost a full year preparing for the meeting, which was expected to bring about 200 visitors to the district. So the school system decided to forge ahead and hold a conference, inviting educators and lawmakers from across the state.

The conference was sponsored by Discovery Education.

Moody estimated that between Thursday and Friday’s activities, roughly 180 visitors from five states — including New York and Mississippi — dropped in to see what’s happening in Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

“If you want to get your house in order, invite a couple hundred people to come see what you’re doing,” Moody joked during the opening reception.

With recent recognition for technology use from the National School Boards Association under its belt, RSS sparked a lot of conversation about its one-to-one initiative and the changing nature of education.

Former N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue gave the opening address Thursday morning, zeroing in on how education has changed over past decades. She said technology is essential to preparing students for the workforce.

“This new education is about producing workers — educated workers — who can contribute to our economy,” she said.

When it comes to technology, “there is no putting that animal back in the box,” she said. Technology has infiltrated every area of life, and in 10 years there will be jobs people can scarcely imagine now — such as 3D food printer or avatar manager, Perdue said. To not prepare students for that future would be “a huge disservice.”

“Change happens,” Perdue said in an interview after her speech, “so you better get ready for it.”

After Perdue’s address, visitors piled into buses and traveled across the county, visiting South Rowan High School, then going to West Rowan High School to experience Power-U and the school’s farm-to-table program.

The visitors observed teachers, questioned students and shared ideas.

“Our goal today is to learn as much from you as you learn from us,” Moody told the group Thursday morning.

Visitors also went to Horizons Unlimited, learning about the science center’s planetarium and the historic Setzer schoolhouse.

Back at the Wallace Educational Forum, they could peruse a vendor fair, listen to presentations from Moody’s Student Leadership Team or explore the new “educator’s playground” — a place for district teachers to test new technology that could be used in the classroom.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson also attended, arriving in time for dinner and an evening play by Carson High School students. Before the performance, Johnson spoke briefly.

“One of the top priorities I’m bringing to Raleigh is innovation,” he said.

Johnson said a large part of that innovation is technology. He said he is excited to see how it can enhance teaching and empower students. And he hopes to prove right an old saying about North Carolina.

“We are where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,” he said, “and there’s no better place to prove that than education.”

After Johnson’s speech, Bill Goodwin, CEO of Discovery Education, presented Moody with an award in recognition for “incredible transformative work” and technological innovation.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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