Update–NCWise Training and Gradebooks

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been neck deep in training and a trip to Europe over the holidays.

I was overwhelmed with training and was very worried about training others on something I felt like I barely knew.  What a relief to have an awesome group of core trainers to work with and learn from!  By the time, our lead teacher and I trained our staff yesterday, training was like a well-oiled machine.

Our staff walked out with positive attitudes and smiles.  Many said it was painless and I think their fears about NCWise were alleviated for the most part.  I think it also helps that we are going to be using the program in steps and not all at once.  (We won’t be using the gradebook until next fall.)  The training materials created by the core training group helped to make things clear and concise.

So, today, I am heaving a huge sigh of relief and look forward to the actual conversion process and hope it will go as smoothly as our training did.  We have already planned for a little refresher course just before the week of conversion so hopefully things on the teacher’s side will run nicely.

As far as the parent access question and the NCWise gradebook are concerned, we are still undecided at the moment.  However, if we don’t use the NCWise gradebook, the full potential of having shared access to student data will not be realized.  Also, other online gradebook possibilities will cost money.  These are all factors to be discussed but at least the future looks bright!

A Treasure Hidden in the Paper Wasteland of my Desk

I want to post something that was given to me by one of our 6th grade science teachers.  I’ve had this sitting in a pile on my desk for a while now and I am thrilled to have “rediscovered” it.  It’s funny what one may find when one actually takes the time to clean one’s desk (which, for me, is the end of the year).  😉  The following is entered as it was submitted to me. 

 We live in a video and technology driven world.

Learners are drawn to the excitement that using technology brings to any lesson.

 Technology has tremendous power to help students obtain, organize, manipulate, and display information.

We need to emphasize the integration of higher order thinking skills using authentic tasks.  Instead of students practicing discrete, isolated skills, the curriculum would stress composition, comprehension, and applications of skills.

Using technology for meaningful activities also helps integrate a variety of disciplines, more closely resembling activities that people undertake in the world beyond the classroom.  For example, word processing is a real-world technology that can help students develop writing and thinking skills.  Using the computer, students write longer, more complex sentences and are more willing to revise and edit their work.  They are able to concentrate on the thoughts they want to express rather than the mechanical skills of penmanship, spelling, and grammar (Hornbeck, 1990).

Technology also can help students develop positive cooperative learning relationships, enabling them to work together while researching topics and creating presentations.  In such relationships, students help each other learn.

Using technology not only helps me become a more creative teacher but it also helps my students as they are developing into more enthusiastic, life-long learners.

Technology cannot become a meaningful support for students’ work if they have access to it for only a few minutes a week. 

–Sue Sippel

I wholeheartedly agree!  What a way to end a wonderful year! 

MCMS Response to Sunday’s Editorial

Following is the response to Sunday’s editorial in the Carteret County News Times titled “A Wise Decision?”  It was composed by myself and my principal, Sue Kreuser.  We also included valuable input from our staff.  Special thanks to Amy Bruce, Margaret Ann Chalk, Michele Davis, Rhonda Scibal, and Bill Newman for helping us with content and editing!

Morehead City Middle School is grateful that our community is discussing the need for schools to increase the accessibility of technology for our students and staff.  We would like to clarify our school’s plan to increase the use of technology across all content areas.

Morehead Middle School serves around 500 students.  Our two computer labs are used for many purposes.  One vocational classroom lab is used to teach the NC Standard Course of Study.  In these classes, students learn basic keyboarding skills, as well as more complex skills, including applications such as word processing, database, spreadsheet, desktop publishing, and multimedia presentations.  Our second lab is used on a rotating basis by our entire staff and their students.  North Carolina requires teachers to include computer and other technology skills in their lessons.  This lab is continually in use as our teachers create exciting and new ways to use technology in projects and everyday lessons. 

MCMS has a need greater than our current computer labs can meet.  Therefore, we have moved forward with a plan to bring technology into more classrooms.  This plan is supported financially by our parents and students who sold chocolate bars and magazine subscriptions so that we could lease a portable lab.  This lab will be in the hands of our students within the next several weeks. 

Our portable lab has a three year warranty on parts and replacement, just like the desktop computers funded by the county.  These laptops are stored in a secure cart which remains locked when not in use.  When the lab is rolled to the classroom, students are assigned a specific laptop.  Thus, if problems arise, the situation can be handled properly. 

Essentially, the only differences between our portable lab of laptops and the desktop computers sitting in a lab (both have the same productivity and security software) are mobility and flexibility.  Laptops give teachers and students the ability to use them in a variety of ways, such as outside labs in science or grouping students into stations in a classroom for cooperative learning projects.  Laptops allow more accessibility without the capital outlay to build more labs.  We can “make do” with the facilities we have by turning any room into a computer lab.

Rest assured that our students and staff will be trained in the proper care and use of this computer lab, just as they are with all computer inventory at our school.  Improper use of technology equipment is dealt with as any other infraction would be.  On the other hand, it is our policy to teach students the behaviors we want them to exhibit.  We are confident that, with the proper training, they will treat this portable lab as well, if not better, than any other equipment they handle in the school.  It is our hope that students will feel a sense of ownership and pride in this lab since they helped earn the money to make the lease possible.

At Morehead City Middle School, we are preparing our students to be 21st century learners who are inquisitive, collaborative, responsible, and independent in their learning.  Technology is one of the tools they need now, not just in the future.  We live in a technology rich environment.  To ignore that fact and limit our schools to pen and paper activities would be a travesty and would put our students at a serious disadvantage when competing for jobs and college admissions.  Additionally, we must prepare our students for the North Carolina Computer Skills test which is given in the eighth grade and which all students must pass to graduate from high school.  Students must be exposed to technology as much as possible to learn the skills well enough to pass this test.

Our staff welcomes the public to visit our school to see this exciting tool for learning!


After re-reading my post from yesterday I realized that to others I may seem ungrateful for the technology we have. I want to clarify that I am extremely grateful for what we have. Our teachers and students do amazing things with the equipment we’ve been allocated.

We have a nice computer lab that will be very up-to-date (once we upgrade to Windows XP and Office 2003) by the end of the spring. Our school hasn’t really had a technology facilitator for the last few years to push upgrades and steer purchasing towards the future. Hopefully we will be on the right track after the next couple of years but it will take time.

I have visited other schools in other counties. Some have more technology than us and others have less. I am always grateful that we are not in the latter category. I just think there is room for improvement when it comes to refreshing our equipment and I am glad we have advocates in the county who are willing to speak out on our behalf.

Local Budget Request Thoughts

I just wanted to take a few moments to respond to the recent presentation to our county’s school board on the need to better fund technology in our schools.

Our county does need to reflect on how it is funding technology. As a new tech facilitator, it seems that we refresh computers when they’re 7 or 8 years old and basically obsolete. My teachers have iMacs that have so little memory/up-to-date hardware that the only thing students can do with them is take an Accelerated Reader test. Surfing the Internet on them is almost impossible. Our recent Computer Utilization Survey results prove this–the highest percentage of student computer usage was using Accelerated Reader. Teachers tell me over and over again that they can’t do anything else with those iMacs.

We are in dire need of another computer lab in our school. I have posted on this topic several times in my blog. We are looking at other possibilities like a wireless lab but there is no money for such a venture. We have the potential to do some wonderful things but with such limited computer access, there is no way they will be accomplished.

The fact that we even have to prove students use computers is ridiculous. Of course they use computers but our survey results won’t show that students are doing real-world technology projects (like editing digital video, blogging, etc.) until we can get equipment and software to support them. It’s like a catch 22.


This was posted on the Abilene, Kansas High School Dialogue Buzz website. It was an anonymous post, but VERY powerful. Feel free to share this with educators, parents and stakeholders about 1:1 and the power of the seamless use of technology. It seems to sum it all up!!

Let’s have a little competition at school and get ready for the future. I will use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil. Are you ready…?

I will access up-to-date information – you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
I will immediately know when I misspell a word – you have to wait until it’s graded.
I will learn how to care for technology by using it – you will read about it.
I will see math problems in 3D – you will do the odd problems.
I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world – you will share yours with the class.
I will have 24/7 access – you have the entire class period.
I will access the most dynamic information – yours will be printed and photocopied.
I will communicate with leaders and experts using email – you will wait for Friday’s speaker.
I will select my learning style – you will use the teacher’s favorite learning style.
I will collaborate with my peers from around the world – you will collaborate with peers in your classroom.
I will take my learning as far as I want – you must wait for the rest of the class.
The cost of a laptop per year? – $250
The cost of teacher and student training? – Expensive
The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? – Priceless