Name: Scott Smith
Title: Chief Technology Officer
District: Mooresville Graded
School District (NC)
What are your big-picture
tech goals for your
We’re in the middle of a digital conversion. We’re
a 1:1 district; every fourth- through 12th-grade
student has a MacBook Air. The third-graders
have MacBooks that stay at school, and there are
laptop carts for K-2.
For our digital conversion, we are changing
the teaching and learning environment as well
as the culture to meet the needs of every student
in a technology-rich environment. We can do
personalized learning and reach children in new
ways. Our professional development effort is
huge, and it’s not just the tech side—the culture is
shifting, too. When we started on this endeavor it
was like every teacher became a first-year teacher
again. That gives you a perspective of how massive
this is. Our school board was brought in because
we knew we needed to do a lot of PD. They gave
us six early-release days built into the school
calendar. Students go home at noon and teachers
have PD the rest of day. Now we have 10. When we
sold it to the community, we said, “We know you
want your doctor to be up to date and know what’s
going on. Why wouldn’t you want that for your
kid’s teachers too?”
We haven’t bought a textbook in four years,
except for college AP courses. In North Carolina
we can use textbook money for other things,
so we used it for about 20 different digital
resources, including Discovery Education
BrainPOP (www.brainpop.com), Study Island
(www.studyisland.com), and icurio (www.icurio.com/mktg). We try to buy sources that are
aligned to North Carolina standards or Common
Core. A high school biology teacher can look for
a lesson on mitosis. It’s all vetted and aligned,
and it lets teachers use simulations, hands-on
projects, and other things that cover multiple
modalities. By using digital resources teachers
can do so much more to meet the needs of all
We’re also using data more intelligently.
We have better, just-in-time, real data now so
students get instant feedback. A teacher doesn’t
have to spend time grading. She can give a quiz,
and as soon as the student submits it he knows
how he did. We do quarterly assessments. We
were using Scantron, but we outgrew it and now
use Thinkgate (thinkgate.net) for assessments.
We take the daily and quarterly assessments
and use EVAAS (Education Value Added
Assessment System; www.ncpublicschools.org/evaas). It looks at a student across grades and
can predict how he’ll do on the next assessment.
It’s very accurate. A teacher can look at her
students and know who will struggle, so she can
provide individualized intervention early on.
Teachers use EVAAS on the front end and do
daily and quarterly assessments. These products
make everything transparent.
What changes are you
ta king to achieve them?
Overall, we’re going through a culture shift.
Our superintendent has done a great job of
selling it to the community, explaining why we
need a digital conversion, and what it means.
Our superintendent says, “We’re preparing
kids for their future, not our past.” We need to
teach them how to think, not what to think, and
help them to be adaptive and competitive and
What are the biggest
challenges in your day-today
Lack of time is always an issue. I’m focused on
maintaining what’s already happening while
building new things.
How do you get buy in
from the community?
My superintendent is great at it. As he says, you
have to answer the “so what?” question to your
parents, your community, and your constituents.
What can kids do with a laptop? What difference
does it make? People understand dropout
rate, attendance rate, and graduation rate, but
just because we give children and teachers
technology and we change the environment, is it
making a measurable difference? We can prove
it is! Discipline and dropout rate is way down;
graduation rate is up. We look at the data so we
can answer the “So what?” question.