South Ripley gets digital grant
School is one of 20 named to receive $100,000

Mary Mattingly

South Ripley School Corporation got good news Friday morning. The state’s Office of eLearning announced the district is one of 20 corporations to receive the $100,000 2014 Digital Learning Grant.

The grant was open to all schools in the state, and 132 applied during the first round. South Ripley made it as one of the 33 finalists. Making the pitch last week to the Dept. of Education for South Ripley was a team consisting of Supt. Rob Moorhead, Amy Linkel, the assistant principal at the elementary school, Ryan Lauber, a fifth grade teacher, and Rod Hite, the junior high principal. Moorhead commented, “Although the presentation was limited to only four participants, it was a true team effort of many teachers and staff that helped create and perfect the presentation.”

Ripley Publishing Bridal SectionMoorhead admitted it was rather tense presenting. “We could see an iPad with a clock ticking from 10 minutes, and when we finished we had just 8 seconds left on the clock!”

The second year superintendent was thrilled they won. ”It’s important because it was competitive and we made a pitch, showing a well thought-out action plan for the 1:1 digital initiative.” (1:1 refers to all students having a digital device.)

The grant was designed for districts prepared to launch the 1:1 initiative or to take the next steps, such as expanding grade levels or replicating successes from pilot projects. Besides South Ripley, Batesville Community School Corporation and Seymour Community Schools also were awarded the grant. Batesville has already implemented a 1:1 digital program for middle and high schools.
Schools were requested to address three areas in the application and presentation. Those areas included: the capacity to sustain the 1:1 initiative, the vision and effect on student learning, and implementing the plan. South Ripley plans to use this grant to provide high quality training for the teaching staff to help them continue to develop digital teaching skills and to assist with the creation of digital curriculum.

Moorhead said they will use the funding to provide an eLearning Coach to work side by side with teachers as they implement these new digital teaching techniques. “We tried hard to follow the philosophy ‘do it right, not fast, and build it to last,’ ” Moorhead said. “Our thinking is if the teachers are not ready it will fail. We’ll focus putting the money on helping the training of staff, providing professional development.”

The judges were also looking for districts developing content and expectations, creating avenues for parent and student communication, as well as for purchasing devices. “Research shows there is a 95 percent retention if teachers have coaching,” Moorhead added.

After a successful 1:1 pilot program this school year, South Ripley plans to issue a Chromebook to each student in grades 5-8 next school year. The pilot program will be extended to grades 9 and 10 and 3 and 4 next year as the corporation continues to phase-in the implementation of 1:1 devices.

Administrators are also sensitive to any increase in fees for parents. The goal is to add the Chromebooks but to keep the student’s book bill about the same as last year.

Exposing and instructing students in technology is an important role of schools these days. “It’s the world we live in, and we have to be comfortable to use it to be successful after graduation. Information today is global and at the touch of our fingertips. It only helps us to have more tools to do so,” Moorhead said.


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