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Creating a Culture of School Technology

February 09, 2016

Heather Horton wants to get rid of the front of the classroom.

The tech director at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina, Horton is leading the charge as her district goes digital. She knows that change starts in the classroom, and if the teacher is a “coach, guide, facilitator for groups of kids working together,” there’s no need for a talking head at the blackboard. So what else is on the agenda for seven of the schools in Forsyth County? Using tech to foster collaboration, communication, and independence, and to get their students prepared for the future.

Horton and her fellow educators are committed to using technology to create a new kind of school, introducing everything from new digital devices to innovative teaching strategies (see that “front of the classroom” point). Look at Latoya Scott’s biology class, for instance, where digital quizzes taken on laptops allow for quick and personalized feedback. Just down the hall, Dave Hebert’s honors world history students film videos about ancient Greece. English teacher John Ganshert has set up an online system to submit assignments, making his class almost totally paperless – except for the pop quizzes.

Though Horton and her team were nervous at first about possible culture shock, there turned out to be no cause for alarm – teachers and administrators alike were excited to help the district build a strong foundation in technology. As Principal Joe Childers of Atkins High School put it: “There was 100 percent consensus among staff members that this was the next thing for us to do to keep growing as educators and continue bringing new opportunities.”

In their mission to create a tech-friendly school culture, the team in Forsyth County is following the advice of district chief tech officer Kevin Sherrill: “We need to get away from the mindset of ‘let’s go teach technology’ to where technology is an integral part of everything we do.” So don’t be surprised if you stop by Atkins High and see there’s no one at the front of the classroom – that just means everything’s going according to plan.