Let me start off this post by giving my sincerest thanks to the staff and students of Joplin Public Schools. Thanks for letting 28 strangers from Northeast Nebraska come to you district and learn from amazing administrators, teacher, and students. There is no way that we can repay you for your graciousness in being our hosts.
I must now say that this was an amazing day. We started out at the Administration building with some background on the transformation to a 1:1 school and to go textbook-less in the high school. The thing that is really interesting was that they had been planning on going 1:1 for three years, the storm just pushed up the plan. The plan to go textbook-less just came about with the storm. Teachers, some of them, went kicking and screaming into the project. There were instructional coaches, both for the technology and for curriculum, which were hired to help with the transition. The coaches are also used for ongoing support and even help with teaching lessons for the students. This all couldn’t have been done without help from the United Arab Emirates. There was a big contribution made by the UAE to help with the funding, as well as some matching funds.
We also learned about the professional development process that ALL teachers have gone through at Joplin Public Schools. Instructional Technology Educating Kids, iTEK, is the program that they used for all teachers. At the end of the program, each teacher got a laptop and a SmartBoard. The program consisted of summer work. Each teacher received 30 to 50 hours of PD work depending on the subjects and classes they taught. Math teachers needed more PD than PE teachers. Who has seen a PE teacher using a SmartBoard in the gym? I sure haven’t. The PD was customized to fit the teacher’s needs. They did this training in three waves of about 100 teachers a year. They are still providing training to the new teachers in the district, but it isn’t as much of the introduction of the technology, but more of how to integrate the technology into the classroom.
They also have a program called Eagles Thinking, Educating, and Communicating, eTEC. This is a Joplin Public Schools PD program. It is designed around the P21 Framework, ISTE’s NETS, and the Common Core Standards. All teachers go through this program as well. It is a continual PD program. This is a two-year, 100-hour program that is designed to help teachers integrate technology into the classroom. It is designed to fit the teacher’s needs at the current time. Trainings with 21st century coaches happen every month and are scheduled with the trainers and the teachers.
Once we were done at the administration building we traveled to East Middle School. This is one of the several temporary sites in the district. This one just happens to be in an industrial park in a converted warehouse. I must say, what they have done to turn this building into an area to teach students is remarkable. We talked with administrators and watched how a couple of classes were using iPads in their classrooms with students. The engagement of the students in those classes was wonderful. Every student was actively engaged with what was going on. There were really wanting to learn.
We then traveled to the temporary JHS 11/12 building at the mall. What is most amazing about this place, besides what they did with a big box store space, was that they did it in 55 days. The do have some modular buildings in the parking lot, not out of need for space, but because the mall owner wouldn’t let them cook or burn materials on their property. So the science classrooms and labs, and the kitchen are in modular. We were given a tour by some students that are part of a mentoring program for the freshmen and sophomores at the other campus, and are part of being tour guides for those that are want to see what the district is doing. The schools walls do not go all the way to the ceiling. It is an adjustment because you hear what is going on in the rooms right next to you. The “free form” of the school is quite amazing. (I will post some photos later of the entire tour as well)
After lunch we had an opportunity to talk to some of the students, juniors and seniors. It is amazing to see how mature they are. It wasn’t like talking to high school kids; it was like talking to college students. They made some comments that were really interesting. First, the school feels more like a business setting rather than a school. You can see that in the way that some of the walls, that double as white boards, are able to rotate out into the hall way. Secondly, one made the comment that 6th-8th grades, middle school, prepare you for high school. The campus on the mall is like the middle school for college. Finally, a senior made a comment about how he and some of his classmates, while looking at colleges, look at what technology those schools have. Their building now is much more advanced that some colleges.
We also got to see the path and damage of the storm. It is amazing what destruction the storm caused. It is amazing how much was totally destroyed. Entire neighborhoods take out. Trees mangled, torn out of the ground, and even some that are still standing with the bark completely stripped. The rebuilding is taking place, slowly, but it is taking place. We traveled past the sight of the new Joplin High School, there is only dirt work taking place so far, but I am sure it will be a wonderful new building. I would be interested in coming back down in two to three years to see how far they have come from today.
We then had the opportunity to ask some questions of several administrators of the district about anything and everything. That was quite informative.
Our final activity of the day was participating in an eTEC training on the Flipped Classroom. This just showed us how the program works and the way that technology is being modeled in the district.
Hopefully you have been following the tweet that have been sent out by several people on this trip to #nnncjoplin. I know for myself personally it has been a very informative and inspirational trip.
I will leave you with one last part of our day that has really stuck with me. Dr. Angie Besendorfer asked us a very good question, “What is the boldest thing you have ever done? Now, what if you were 10% bolder?”