Technology broadens students’ learning opportunities at South Johnston High School

We were the only high school in our district to be recognized as a School of Distinction by earning high growth. We had more Advanced Placement (AP) students than ever this past year as a result of the online AP courses offered through North Carolina Virtual Public School. Through this technology-enabled instruction, our students were able to take courses that we simply could not offer at our school because of staffing and cost restraints. This was made possible by the restructuring of an older computer lab into an online class learning center. We have also saved thousands of dollars in paper and copying costs by posting announcements on a shared server and via closed-circuit television throughout the campus. Finally, we have saved money by being able to offer online tests and examinations rather than spending on paper and printing materials.

How have you financed your ed-tech initiatives?

Our administration, and especially our principal Eddie Price, has been very aggressive in trying to obtain as much funding as possible for our school. For example, he has secured grants from local companies and from civic groups like the Golden Leaf Foundation, which has provided funds specifically for technology use. Additionally, our principal has been able to acquire local funds from our school district and has written numerous grants from charitable organization such as the United Way, which have helped us to be able to purchase technology equipment at a fractional cost—including laptops, desktops, and monitors.

What ed-tech initiative are you most proud of, and why?

The implementation of the one-to-one laptop initiative for the Freshman Academy is one of our biggest accomplishments. It has had significant obstacles to overcome—including compatibility issues, collection and distribution procedures, software and firewall issues, and implementing new methods of instruction for our teachers. However, now it is proving to be extremely rewarding for our students, who are excited about learning and using this technology not only in class, but to research and work outside of the classroom setting as well.

What have been your biggest ed-tech challenges? How have you overcome these?

The biggest challenges have focused around integrating the technology into an old school building that was not designed or built for computers and the associated wiring. We have had to install access points seemingly in every room across the campus to have complete coverage for wireless devices. We still have problems with our school server not being fast enough to handle all of the data being transmitted on it. And finally, getting teachers—who in some cases are not very tech-savvy—to use all of the new and exciting resources that are now available to them has been a challenge. We have overcome these challenges by having a great support system from the central office and technology services department and by having frequent Professional Learning Community meetings. We also hold staff development training sessions where teachers can share best practices and teaching methods that use our available technologies.

What’s your best ed-tech advice for your colleagues?

To try, try, and try. Most who are skeptical about the advancements in technology and all of the useful ways it can be used in today’s classroom might simply refuse to step outside of their comfort zone and try a new method of teaching a concept. What I have found is that if teachers will simply experiment and try the new software, or the new equipment, they will find that not only can their jobs become easier, but more exciting as well. That can create a wonderful new classroom experience for their students to learn the material presented.

I also have a wonderful principal who is fully aware of and completely supports the role of technology in the schools, and advocates for the creation of an atmosphere where we can teach our students to not only be a part of the 21st century, but to thrive in the ever-changing world.

eSchool News Staff

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