The future is now at North Adams schools, Superintendent Dr. Wylie Sirk told members of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce at the group's monthly noon luncheon series on Monday.
Sirk was joined by Bellmont High School Principal Scot Croner and North Adams technology coordinator Miriam Hopkins in outlining to the chamber crowd the advancements in digital technology under way in all grade levels throughout the school district.
"Our ultimate goal is excellence for our students, parents, faculty and community," said Sirk, "and to provide for our students the ability to pursue the mastery of 21st century skills. Our vision is that North Adams students graduate high school with the skills necessary to take them on to the next step."
Sirk said the move toward enhanced digital technology instruction at North Adams has been enhanced through the school district's receipt of nearly $400,000 in state technology grant funds during the past year.
In 2011 the district received nearly $300,000 in grant dollars which has been used to train teachers in Project Based Learning skills and provide the resources for a conversion to a digital curriculum. A $100,000 state DOE grant earlier this year has allowed the school to develop eLearning Classroom initiatives and continue the path toward the replacement of traditional textbooks with digital instruction.
"We're on quite a journey," Sirk said, "and it's a journey that is revolutionizing teaching. We are working to make a community school that is progressive. We must drastically change teaching and learning, and we are now making intentional decisions based on what is best for our students. Change is not easy, which is why a clear vision of our goals is necessary."
Hopkins said changes are already under way in the elementary school level, with a more complete phase-in of digital resources scheduled to begin during the 2012-13 school year.
"We need to immerse students and teachers into the digital world," Hopkins said. "And we must also ensure that our teachers are knowledgeable and comfortable with this digital world."
She said additional teacher training is part of the ongoing evolution of North Adams schools. Also included is increased in-class access to digital resources and take-home laptop computers for middle and elementary school students.
Croner said the emphasis at Bellmont High School is to "build a platform to spring-board students toward 21st century success." A program to provide iPad tablets for all early-college students at BHS is currently in place, and Croner said the goal for 2012-13 is for all students in grades 9 through 12 to have take-hom iPads. Additional online course work will also be implemented at the high school level, he said.
"The kids want to learn this way," Croner said of the emphasis on digital technology programming. "This is their world."
Sirk said educators at North Adams are "excited about the journey" to bring about changes.
"We're really on the cutting edge," the superintendent said. "We realize that we have to think and teach differently, and that we're all in this together."