Dr.Truesdale.pngDear Digital Learning Team,

We are excited to share with you this inaugural edition of Transforming Digital Teaching and Learning. We have created this site as a resource for connecting technology leaders. We will provide up to date information weekly in this column entitled, Tech Trends. This column will update our school community on technology trends that we see at the local level. We also have links to resources so you are knowledgeable about national technology trends.

Dr. Heath Morrison has set a bold path forward for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, launching eight ambitious goals for us all. Over the next few months, twenty-two task forces will articulate strategies for reaching those goals. Enhancing technology in the classroom, thereby increasing student engagement using technology tools, is a central piece of several of the bold goals. Our Technology Services team is launching this site as a service for our educators, to find tools quickly, share ideas, and navigate resources. Our goal is to transform CMS classrooms from an eclectic collection of hardware and software with inconsistent connectivity to a fully connected environment wherein classrooms are connected to the world. We believe our teachers should have the tools and training needed to integrate technology into learning and teaching with confidence and agility. Digital tools can enhance student engagement and learning. It is our goal to support teaching by increasing teachers’ confidence in using tech tools and by making technology use seamless.

Several key initiatives are underway in Technology Services division: improving infrastructure, improving teacher technology tools, and increasing student access to tech tools. We believe Tech4Teachers + Tech4Kids = Enhanced Learning.

INFRASTRUCTURE: Our initial assessment in October indicated insufficient bandwidth to support connectivity. Some of our network systems are Nortel and some are Cisco. Thirty-five schools (22%) have good connectivity.

We were able to increase bandwidth to a newly set minimum standard of 50 MB for elementary schools, 100 MB for middles, and 500 MB for high schools by November. We have outlined an accelerated timeline for converting all schools to Cisco network and installing enough access points to support a standard of "good coverage." We define "good coverage" as 1.5 access points per classroom, so that thirty student devices can be connected at the same time. We are developing a plan to convert to Windows 7 or 8, district-wide. Our goal is for this essential infrastructure upgrade to be completed by the opening of school in August, 2013. Principals have been provided an estimated timeframe for completing infrastructure upgrade for their specificschools. Because of our size, the task for our CMS team is immense, and costly. Infrastructure is however, foundational prerequisite for learning and teaching in a digital age.

TECH4TEACHERS: Technology tools for teachers are inconsistently deployed currently beyond the standard of three computers per classroom. Some classrooms have a great deal of hardware and some have very little. Some schools have technology facilitators and/or coaches to provide imbedded training for their teams and some schools have none. We first need to ensure that we are using the technology tools that we have, so instructional technology trainers are working intensely in schools that have a great deal of hardware to ensure that teachers feel confident in integrating technology into their lessons with agility. The state of North Carolina has helped us greatly by mandating implementation of Reading 3D for 2013-14. A team of principals and district leaders have analyzed options and decided that we will pilot Reading 3D on iPads. Devices for the 23 pilot elementary schools should arrive in January. We will issue a request for information proposals for equipment so that in fall 2013, all K-3 teachers can implement Reading 3D. We anticipate many vendors will bid to provide CMS with the tools for teachers to use with Reading 3D next fall.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has also mandated conversion to Power School. Power School, once operationalized, will be an improvement over NCWise and we welcome the more robust software to support our data systems. Any conversion that touches every piece of student and staff data is a tremendous task. In CMS, the conversion challenge is amplified because of our size. In North Carolina, the conversion challenge is a concern because of an ambitious timeline. We will utilize all resources available at the district and school levels to ensure a smooth conversion. We are fortunate to have an outstanding technology services team working on the project.

TECH4KIDS: We have an iPad grant initiative underway and a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) pilot underway. Phase I of the BYOT initiative has been in place just over two months. The 21 schools in this pilot are implementing BYOT in various ways. Some schools began with teachers' BYOT; others opened BYOT to teachers and students. Connect and Reflect sessions will be held in order for pilot school teams to share results of BYOT in their respective schools. Continued collaboration is planned throughout the school year. We are definitely seeing an excitement, an interest and student engagement as the tools are used in teaching and learning. Teachers and principals are pleased that CMS has been able to allow this increased access to technology. In November, Principals received an estimated timeframe for completing infrastructure upgrade for their specific schools which is a prerequisite to supporting BYOT.

Thank you for all you do to advance high quality learning and teaching in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
We are honored in the Technology Services division to support you.

Sincerely,

Valerie Truesdale, Ph. D.