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Ushering in the digital classroom

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/22/17/04/1kqEbx.Em.138.jpeg|316
    Isabella Bartolucci - ibartolucci@charlotteobserver.co
    Lisa Foster, a Technology Integration Specialist from Spartanburg, SC, shows Emily Vanderlip, also a Technology Specialst from Spartanburg, SC, a program on her computer during a classroom session at the Mooresville Graded School District's 5th annual Summer Connection Gathering at Mooresville Intermediate School on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Teachers from across the U.S. are learning how to digitally convert their classrooms at the Mooresville Graded School District's 5th annual. Teachers and administrators from 29 school districts and 16 states are attending the gathering, which is Tuesday through Thursday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/22/17/05/12rxcH.Em.138.jpeg|233
    Isabella Bartolucci - ibartolucci@charlotteobserver.co
    Teachers from across the country participate in a classroom session about how to plan a lesson based on the seven levels of Bloom's taxonomy at the Mooresville Graded School District's 5th annual Summer Connection Gathering at Mooresville Intermediate School on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Teachers from across the U.S. are learning how to digitally convert their classrooms at the Mooresville Graded School District's 5th annual. Teachers and administrators from 29 school districts and 16 states are attending the gathering, which is Tuesday through Thursday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/22/17/04/kj7ZV.Em.138.jpeg|209
    Isabella Bartolucci - ibartolucci@charlotteobserver.co
    Maralee Clark, a Principal at Baltimore County Public Schools, and Ryan Harrison, a School Level Administrator at Lauderdale County School System, wear blindfolds for an excercise for school administrators at the Mooresville Graded School District's 5th annual Summer Connection Gathering at Mooresville Intermediate School on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Teachers from across the U.S. are learning how to digitally convert their classrooms at the Mooresville Graded School District's 5th annual. Teachers and administrators from 29 school districts and 16 states are attending the gathering, which is Tuesday through Thursday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/22/19/48/k3OkR.Em.138.jpeg|209
    Isabella Bartolucci - ibartolucci@charlotteobserver.com
    Maralee Clark, a principal at Baltimore County Public Schools, and Ryan Harrison, a school level administrator at Lauderdale County School System, wear blindfolds for an exercise at the Mooresville Graded School District’s Summer Connection Gathering on Tuesday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/22/19/48/OCAWO.Em.138.jpeg|237
    Isabella Bartolucci - ibartolucci@charlotteobserver.com
    Lisa Foster, a technology integration specialist from Spartanburg, SC, shows Emily Vanderlip, also a technology specialist from Spartanburg, a program on her computer during a classroom session at the Mooresville Graded School District's 5th annual Summer Connection Gathering at Mooresville Intermediate School on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Teachers from across the US are learning how to digitally convert their classrooms at the Mooresville Graded School District's gathering. Teachers and administrators from 29 school districts and 16 states are attending the gathering, which is Tuesday through Thursday.

MOORESVILLE As superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, Terry Grier runs the largest public school system in Texas and sixth-largest in America.

So why, people ask, do he and his teachers learn each year from a school district with only 5,000 students? Grier’s district has 211,000.

The Mooresville Graded School District has sent teams of instructors to Houston in recent years to train teachers, principals and district administrators. Grier and 30 others from his district made another summer pilgrimage to Mooresville this week.

Grier, a Robeson County native and former superintendent of the year in Guilford County, is attending the Mooresville district’s fifth annual Summer Connection conference on using digital technology in the classroom.

He joined nearly 400 teachers, principals and superintendents from 29 school districts and 16 states at the sold-out conference, which began Tuesday and ends Thursday.

The Mooresville district became a national model in recent years because of its digital conversion and high academic achievement rates.

As a result, Superintendent Mark Edwards was named national Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2013, and President Barack Obama visited Mooresville Middle School in June 2013.

During his visit, Obama unveiled a plan to connect nearly every U.S. classroom to high-speed broadband and wireless Internet over five years.

“They know what they’re doing,” Grier told the Observer at Mooresville Intermediate School, where Mooresville teachers are instructing their guests in classrooms. “They got it right. They don’t have an equal in the country.”

Educators came from districts that only recently ushered in or plan to begin the digital conversion Mooresville pioneered years ago.

In Mooresville, every student from fourth grade to 12th grade is issued a MacBook Air to use at school and to take home.

Classrooms use laptops, iPads and interactive whiteboards and are far more collaborative than when teachers taught from podiums.

“The point is not the box,” Scott Smith, the Mooresville district’s chief technology officer, said Tuesday, referring to the laptops and iPads. “The point is changing the teachers and the learning environment and doing what’s best for kids.”

As teacher Meredith Schwendemann from the Greenwood (S.C.) School District said, “It’s a mind shift in how to implement technology and prepare students for life after high school, for college or careers.”

She and other teachers attended a class Tuesday afternoon on digital “Cool Tools” they can use with their students, including one for videos and another for quizzes.

Another class, “Leading as a Digital Teacher,” encompassed everything from collaboration to digital citizenship, meaning how students should conduct themselves online.

Edwards led sessions for administrators.

“What they’re doing here is what I believe every school district in America should be doing,” Grier said.

Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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