Phew. My appologies I've been so late in blogging. Been a busy couple of days.
We went to Duke University on Tuesday and saw some model classrooms for student collaboration in an annex in one of the school's libraries. The classrooms were configured not in rows but with four tables lining each wall. Students sat around these tables in a large circle from which they could more easily have discussions with professors. There were group study rooms where students would write on the glass walls as if there were whiteboards. Throughout the space, students were lounging on fabric chairs while working on their laptops.
I don't know what the Tupelo Public School District will use from these models but they do conform to superintendent Randy Shaver's stated goal of turning classrooms into learning environments where students collaborate to drive the instruction. There will be more about those classrooms in the Journal this weekend.
Today, we toured several schools in the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District, which has already implemented a one-to-one laptop initiative similar to the one the TPSD will soon roll out. I had the chance to talk to parents, community leaders, teachers and students about how the district has used the laptops and how they've overcome challenges with rolling out the computers. I'll have much more information on that in the blog over the next couple of days and in the Journal this weekend.
For now, I'll say that the Mooresville schools have done much more than give students laptops, but they've changed the culutre of the classrooms, turning them into 21st-century learning environments as Shaver has said he wants to do in Tupelo. The teachers we saw were not standing in front of rows of students in lecturing. Instead they were often in the middle of the classroom monitoring students who used their computers to work on projects.
Textbooks have been drastically reduced throughout the district, but many teachers say they prefer using the resources of the Internet which allow students to go much deeper in their reserach than they could do with text books. They say the Internet is also more current than a text books.
The computers seem to have increased student creativity and many of them now make movies and multimedia presentations where they used to make posterboards.
It sounds like the most difficult thing for many teachers was getting over the fear of not knowing the technology and getting to a point where they felt comfortable asking students to help the to learn the machines. Mooresville Intermediate School Principal Julie Morrow said teachers have a closer bond than they've ever had because they are now collaborating to help each other learn the technology. Mooresville High School teacher Jessica Swearengin said the bond between student and teacher is also much stronger because the projects students are creating are more meaningful to the students who are taking more pride in their work. Also, teachers are learning along with students.
Also another local note: We went to dinner Wednesday night at a restaurant in Mooresville, N.C., called 202 North Main. And the manager was from Saltillo. Her name is Ashley Kolb and she seems to be having success in North Carolina. What a small world.
More thoughts to come soon. Feel free to share your thoughts and questions.