Dr. Mark Edwards shared these powerful words during my visit to Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. This district has received a lot of attention for their digital conversion, and after the visit, I understood why. Nothing about this district appeared to be “showy.” Instead of one or two specific rooms to observe, we were led to different wings of the buildings and told to explore any of the rooms. This immediately sent a message of confidence in each educator and the type of learning that was occurring throughout the school. Students were collaborating, comfortable in their learning environment, and engaged in multiple activities.
I immediately felt at home in the high school classrooms, and coming from 13 years of teaching at the elementary level this isn’t always the case. The atmosphere had a familiar hum with pairs and groups discussing ideas while others were working independently. The use of “centers” in secondary classrooms was inspiring. There were very few rooms that had rows of desks. Instead, there were tables, groups of learners, and students moving around freely.
The middle school media center, known as the CAVE perfectly captured the culture of learning that exists in this district. It wasn’t what was in the space, but what was happening in the space. One student had just finished writing lyrics to show what she had learned. Her enthusiasm was contagious as she handed her earphones to her friend so she could listen. Another group of students was presenting and several were conducting research. There were multiple classrooms of students working simultaneously in the space, instead of a group assigned there for “library.”
The leaders were transparent as they discussed their journey. They acknowledged that mistakes were made and hoped we could learn from them. Their focus is clearly on the learners first, and then how technology can amplify this learning. Another key component was the collaboration among teachers. If collaboration is valued then you find the time. The educators at Mooresville find ways to be creative with time and space and understand that the best learning is from one another.
As we move forward and redefine the culture of learning, it is imperative we focus on the human infrastructure. Do we value collaboration enough that we create time for it? Are we supporting and challenging each other to grow and take risks? Is sharing the norm, and not a special event? Do we recognize the strengths of those around us and utilize their knowledge?
We need the to have our technology infrastructure in place. However, if we don’t focus on the relationships with each other, that will become our largest roadblock.