RCS hosts Apple Distinguished Tour

Tour allows educators to view the county's Going G.L.O.BA.L. Initiative in action.
Oct. 30, 2013 @ 05:10 AM

Rutherford County Schools (RCS) opened its classrooms to educators from eight school systems in North Carolina during an Apple Distinguished Tour on Tuesday. The visitors witnessed the Going G.L.O.B.A.L. (Growing Learning Opportunities Beyond All Limits) Initiative first-hand.

"They are here for us to highlight our 1:1 initiative and the way teaching and learning has changed in Rutherford County," said Sonja Smith, director of instructional technology for RCS. "We are not trying to highlight just the technology, but the way students are more engaged and how the learning environment has changed."

RCS began working on the Going G.L.O.B.A.L. Initiative in 2008 with a goal to eventually supply all teachers and students in grades 6-12 with their own laptops. It was first implemented on a small scale at Rutherford Early College High School in 2009 and today all of the schools are using the technology.

RCS was named an Apple Distinguished Program during the 2012-13 school year and as a result is required to host these tours twice a year. That designation is reserved for programs that meet criteria for innovation, leadership, educational excellence and demonstrate a clear vision of exemplary learning environments.

"During the tours we are basically trying to promote our change in teaching and learning and trying to encourage others to make the same changes," Smith said.

The tour included administrators, teachers, central office employees, instructional technology facilitators and curriculum directors from different counties in the state. School systems represented included Asheboro City Schools, Asheville City Schools, Henderson, Cleveland, Gaston, Lincolnton, Macon and Clay County Schools. Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) were also present.

"I came on the tour to learn more about how this school system funds and staffs the initiative," said Jan King, member of DPI. "Part of my job is to help districts problem solve when they implement something like this. I wanted to see it working first-hand."

The members of the tour had the option of visiting elementary school classrooms or middle and high school classrooms to see how the technology is used with the curriculum. Schools toured were Sunshine and Ellenboro elementary schools, East Rutherford Middle School and East Rutherford High School.

"We are looking at doing a similar 1:1 initiative roll out in Clay County. I wanted to come today because I knew Rutherford County has done a good job with it," said Andy Gibson, instructional technology facilitator from Clay County Schools. "An important part of this process is celebrating our neighbors' successes. Rutherford County has a wonderful implementation."

Nancy Cantrell from Macon County Schools said her system is also interested in implementing the laptop initiative.

"I came on this tour because I wanted to look at some of the positives and negatives of the implementation," Cantrell said. "The big focus for us is reducing the necessity for textbooks. I also think it helps students get ready to be competitive globally."

Once the tours were complete, the group returned to East Rutherford to participate in a round-table panel discussion. Tables were arranged based on different roles in the school systems so educators could ask questions based on what they would be doing during an implementation. Tables included Principles for Principals, Instructional Technology Integration, Teaching and Learning, Deployment and Management and District Perspective.

"People could go to the table and ask questions that pertain to their role in the school system. It enabled people to ask more specific questions that were more related to them," Smith said.

According to Smith, these tours are also beneficial to RCS because it gives the school system a chance to collaborate with other systems.

"I walk away from the day with so many fresh ideas. It's refreshing for school systems to get together and share ideas and see what other people are doing," Smith said. "It's not really just about us. It's about us learning from other districts what they're doing that could make us a better school district."