What it Really Takes for Schools to Go Digital

statesville

Reposted from Time:

North Iredell Middle School, about 60 miles north of Charlotte, leaped into the digital learning age in March when it gave each of its more than 650 students MacBook Air computers. The gear is part of a $20-million federally funded plan by the Iredell-Statesville Schools District to issue MacBooks to some 11,300 students across nine middle schools and seven high schools. The grant, part of the federal Race to the Top program, is intended to convert the district to a hybrid approach fusing traditional teaching with digital instruction, a concept known as blended learning that has captured national attention.

“This is about changing the way we instruct students,” says Patrick Abele, executive director of the federal Race to the Top District grant. “It’s not just about technology…This is about having teachers be highly effective and highly engaged with students to close academic gaps.”

Iredell-Statesville didn’t have to look far to see the potential. The neighboring Mooresville Graded School District has been hailed as a national model for the future of technology-aided public education since it made the digital jump in 2009. Last year, President Obama chose the district as the site of his announcement of a new federal program to connect nearly all American schools to high-speed Internet during which he praised Mooresville’s digital classrooms. Yet while the district’s academic improvement since the digital switch has been substantial, it is not a particularly representative model for the rest of the nation. Mooresville is a relatively small district of eight schools and 6,000 students. Just next door, Iredell-Statesville – with 36 schools and nearly 21,000 students – offers a more realistic portrait of the potential and challenges for larger school districts attempting to navigate the digital conversion.

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