A year ago, Noble applied for and received a three-year school improvement grant – no small task. A significant part of their effort included incorporating technology into the school so that they could prepare their students for the future – but also for the present. In the State of Michigan, all students, grades 3 – 8 and 11 are required to take the M-STEP online summative assessment.
Ms. Harris and her team realized that their students, especially the younger ones, were not prepared with the digital literacy skills that an online assessment requires. So, as part of their school improvement grant, they purchased Learning.com’s EasyTech curriculum to assist them in teaching these critical 21st century skills.
Fast forward to this morning, visiting Noble with me today was Senator Morris Hood III who represents this area of Detroit. There were two purposes for our visit this morning. First, to raise the awareness with key legislators on how dedicated educators are addressing the unique needs of their students to prepare them for success in a digital world, and second make a small gift to the school in recognition of their dedication – more on that later.
As we arrived, we were treated to the morning Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom system, followed by Noble’s version of “mini-news minute”. The news was introduced by a few minutes of music, appropriately, Purple Rain – appropriately Prince, due to his recent death.
Upon entering the school, we met a young fifth grader who would serve as our chaperon for the morning – we will call him Alan. Alan was nothing short of awesome. He said he could “hang out” with us for a bit, but needed to make sure he got back to second period. I was thinking – wait a minute, you get an excuse to get out of class and hang out with a Senator, but you want to go to class. We later found out that second period was Alan’s favorite period – Science. Senator Hood probed a bit to see what Alan wanted to do. Alan wants to be a “coder”, those are his words. He wants to write software for games. How cool is that?!
Noble has set up a technology infrastructure that includes a library/lab setting with traditional desktops, as well as mobile iPad carts to be shared by teachers throughout the school. Our visit began with the lab where we visited with the first grade students. These students were learning the basics of digital literacy such as how to use a mouse, basic keyboarding, and computer fundamental. Each student is able to move through a personalized sequence of lessons at their own pace, supported by their teachers along the way. Guided by our chaperon, we were introduced to a few of the students, with special attention and acknowledgement given to the numerous certificates of completion for their Learning.com lessons. It never ceases to amaze me how thrilled a student is by receiving a certificate for completing a lesson.
Ms. Harris stressed the importance of starting with the youngest students to build foundational skills. “How many times a week?” we asked. The answer was two to three times for 20-30 minutes.
Once again, we were led by chaperon Alan upstairs to see what the third grade class was engaged in. There we found a traditional classroom environment with student working independently on iPad Mini’s. These students were focused on learning more advanced keyboard skills, word processing, and more computer fundamentals. I had seen this class before, which leads me to the second purpose of our visit – the gift.
During my previous visit, they were attempting to learn keyboarding – without keyboards. Instead, it looked like the students were playing a game of hunt and peck on the screen. The keys were so small it was impossible for anyone to use correct finger placement. We have been so impressed by the dedication of the Noble team that Learning.com wanted to donate 100 iPad Mini keyboards, so that students could more effectively master their keyboarding skills in time to prepare for the upcoming online assessments. It was great to see that the staff at Noble had already set-up the Bluetooth keyboards and the kids were racing through EasyTech lessons.
Somewhere along the way, Alan ditched us for second period. I later heard that Senator Hood told Alan to contact him sometime if he ever needed help. Alan’s response, “ok, but if you need more help today, have Ms. Harris call me.” I suspect that someday, there will be kids playing a video game designed by Chaperon Alan.
As we departed, Senator Hood could not help himself from popping into the fifth grade class being taught by Mrs. Rice. While introducing himself, he asked if they knew what a Senator did. We all got “schooled” by the fifth graders on government, further highlighting that I am not smarter than a fifth grader.
Senator Hood’s parting words were “we just want you to be the best you can be, and we are all here to help you do that.”
SVP Strategic Initiatives
Educated as an engineer, Brian has spent his career helping start and expand early stage and emerging growth technology companies. Brian previously served as VP Client Services at the specialty finance firm Charter School Capital. Brian has also held senior-level positions with Ignite Education Group, Pinnacle Education and Insight Schools.
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