Digital Innovator Shares Stories of Tech in the Classroom
Andrew Smith did not take an obvious path to a career in classroom technology – before taking his current position as director of digital innovation at North Carolina’s Rowan-Salisbury School District, he was a high school forensics teacher (think speech and debate, not Bones or CSI) without much experience in the world of tech. But his experience in the classroom helped Smith become a digital pioneer, leading the launch of the district’s 1-to-1 iPad program for 20,000 students. With a front-row seat to the power of technology, Smith recently shared his insights into the ways that going digital has transformed the classrooms of Rowan-Salisbury.
What excites Smith about technology is the way it can give students experiences that a traditional classroom could never offer. When his students used Google Hangouts to debate with a school in Florida, he says, they were getting “opportunities that didn’t exist two years before.” And since 65 percent of students in Rowan-Salisbury schools get free lunch, Smith says that his team is “leveling the playing field by giving them their device. They can have the same kind of access” as students in other districts across the country.
Most importantly, says Smith, is to remember that it’s not all about the devices – they are just “part of a much larger conversation” about the way tech can transform instruction. Thanks to the 1-to-1 program, teachers in Rowan-Salisbury are rethinking the way they work with their students, helping each student learn at his or her own pace and providing personalized experiences in the classroom. As a former teacher himself, Smith knows that “the importance of an educator is paramount,” and that technology can provide those educators the tools they need to make a difference for every student.