School Visit – West Lee Middle, A 1:1 School

This year I have participated in the Sandhills Regional Educational Consortium [SREC] Principal’s Institute. The Principal’s Institute is a professional development opportunity for principals to learn and sharpen critical skills needed for school leadership. PD topics range from school budget to planning with the Teacher Working Conditions Survey and are taught by experts and authorities in their area. This has been a great experience, I’ve learned a great deal from my colleagues, particularly our facilitator Jim Simeon, Executive Director of the Principal’s Institute.

As part of the program, we were required to visit a represented school in the SREC. I chose to visit West Lee Middle School.  Lee County Schools implemented a 1:1 for 5-12 students this school year. It was exciting to learn about this firsthand, particularly a neighbor middle school in North Carolina.

When you first visit classrooms you see the immediate impact of the 1:1. I’ve captured some of these experiences below:

The engagement was apparent and authentic. Of course, technology is not the only way to foster authentic and high level engagement, but with the technology and 2.0 tools at our hands today, it really facilitates this happening.

Melvin Marshall, principal at West Lee Middle, was great to walk me around and acclimate me to school then give me some freedom to explore, snap shots and talk to teachers freely. This was as an apparent showing of his trust and pride in his school. Through my conversation with him and teachers from the school, I took away several points – some new, some learned from my PLN:

  • Training is critical – the staff was given an intensive training at the beginning of the deployment. This was a blend of 2.0 tools training and engagement training with a 1:1
  • Plan for a SERIOUS Shift in Culture – This is not to be taken lightly. When this happens expect a language change and mentality shift. Teachers, and students, start thinking/communicating in terms of the 1:1 medium. Be ready for the change by supporting teachers in not looking back or succumbing to falling back.
  • All Levels of Adopters – Support also needs to be planned for early and late adopters.
  • Opportunities for innovation increase EXPONENTIALLY – I met several teachers, all doing great things. Some were using the laptops to enhance some traditionally practices but there were equal if not more teachers using technology in some great ways for unique learning opportunities. I had a great conversation with an 8th grade social studies teacher [Slide 3] who was revisiting her philosophy of ‘exposing students to different cultures.’ She is dedicating class time for students to learn a foreign language using Rosetta Stone. The slide doesn’t do the engagement justice. This is a great opportunity for students; it’s fostering some independent learning, giving them great practice for online learning formats and an awesome differentiated learning experience! Students were studying many different languages here. The 1:1 facilitated this innovation.

West Lee Middle also has the great benefit of locally funded S.T.E.M. class. A partnership with a local business has provided them with technological resources that give students the exploration opportunities in different fields and industry softwares.

This was such a great visit! I can’t thank Melvin Marshall and his teachers enough for sharing part of their journey with me. Beyond hospitality, I was given insight and encouragement.

There are a lot of thanks to be given for that day. First, thanks to SREC for creating a forum for me to grow and learn. Thanks to my administration, school and district, for providing support when I needed to take time away, and an overwhelming thanks to West Lee Middle School from the principal of West Montgomery Middle School.  Your commitment and progress is inspiring.

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