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Technology's Unexpected Results

Nancy Gardner

In 2007, the Mooresville Graded School District began a transformation called Digital Conversion. Five years later, all students in grade 3 through 12 have laptops. Our program garners national attention, and we frequently host visitors who want to see how it works.

As a veteran teacher of 27 years, this conversion has involved a learning curve, but at this point, I canʼt imagine teaching without technology. Over the past five years, I have realized that technology is our studentsʼ world. They have facts and figures at their fingertips, they access and use technology with ease, and we have to join that world to prepare them for the future. This is really a paradigm shift in methodology.

The digital conversion in Mooresville has led to some obvious changes: electronic texts, increased communication, improved accessibility of sources, and use of multimedia tools.

But there have been unexpected results, too.

My colleagues and I have become more student-centered. Our teaching is more focused, and we use more project-oriented, engaging activities. This intentional teaching is partly influenced by the use of data to drive instruction. However, it is also due to the nature of the tool itself: We are rethinking what students need to know and be able to do for life in the 21st century and how we can best help them reach these goals.

We are also more collaborative, sharing ideas, websites, lessons. The younger teachers (and many students) often help the senior teachers. Departments share ideas so we
know more about what students are doing in other content areas. This collegial support
makes "professional learning communities" legitimate organisms.

Visitors are impressed by the laptops, projectors, and smartboards, but more importantly, they talk about the school climate: It feels energetic, supportive, and student-centered.

Our test scores and graduation rates have improved dramatically.I donʼt think the
technology directly caused these increases, but I do think the technology has
created an environment of high expectations for learning and success.

Mooresville Graded Schools did this conversion the "right" way. Teachers have had ongoing opportunities for professional development, the topics of which have been
determined by teacher requests. The technology staff is accessible and competent:
Every school has a "help desk" for teachers and students. And although the expectation
to use technology is very clear, the administration has allowed us to move forward at
our own pace, according to our own comfort levels.

I will never be replaced by an avatar; I know that for sure. But I am also committed to my students—and that means embracing technology and using it to improve teaching and learning.

A renewed National Board-certified teacher, Nancy Gardner teaches senior English at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, N.C.

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