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Bridgeport Middle School creates a learning network with technology coaching

Bridgeport Middle School, nestled in the hills of Jackson County, Alabama, is surrounded by a close-knit community that has supported the school and its students for generations. “We get a ton of community support from people who don’t have a vested interest in terms of having kids or grandkids as our students. A lot of people just want to see our school succeed,” says Principal Jonathan Colvin. Along with honoring the tradition that surrounds his school, Principal Colvin is also committed to ensuring that his students are ready to face the future, especially when it comes to using technology.

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, Principal Colvin brought the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP) to his school with the hope of closing the digital gap between teachers and students. “As educators, we are here to educate today’s young people,” he says. “As they are digital natives, it’s our job to meet them where they are.”

The Dynamic Learning Project equips coaches in participating schools with the knowledge and skills needed to help teachers transform their practices in the classroom. Principal Colvin tapped Shannon McClain, a former science teacher, as their school’s technology instructional coach.

“When Bridgeport Middle School found out that we were selected to be a part of the Dynamic Learning Project, we were extremely excited.”

Shannon McClain, DLP Coach

“When Bridgeport Middle School found out that we were selected to be a part of the Dynamic Learning Project, we were extremely excited,” Shannon recalls. “We knew that this was going to be transformative for our school, but we weren’t sure how it was going to work.” Bridgeport Middle School has a relatively small faculty with only 10 teachers, which helped Shannon ensure that every teacher had an individualized learning plan. She was particularly excited to work with veteran teachers who were willing to learn new techniques for the benefit of their students.

Because Bridgeport Middle School serves a small town that’s so passionate about their school, Shannon realized that to efficiently foster a culture of innovation, it was crucial to share their digital journey with the surrounding community. With the support of her fellow teachers and students, Shannon invited parents to a community technology night. For that evening, the students became the teachers, and shared with their parents and community members what they were learning as a part of the Dynamic Learning Project.

“Our principal, Jonathan Colvin, often says that we are preparing our children for jobs that don’t exist yet. That’s hard to imagine, but it’s so very true.”

Stacy Long, Parent

The Bridgeport staff was particularly astounded by the participation rate at the community tech night. It had nearly eight times the general attendance of other parent engagement events. Stacey Long, a Bridgeport parent, recalls, “It was amazing to see what tools our students are using. It gives them a leg up on mom and dad, and that’s always interesting.”

After the success of the community tech night, Shannon, Principal Colvin, and four Bridgeport Middle School teachers helped to organize Jackson County’s first Edcamp. Over 400 educators participated in 100 sessions that focused largely on instructional technology. “It was an exciting day,” Shannon recalls. “Many participants stated it was the best teacher workday they’ve had in their careers.”

“As educators, we are here to educate today’s young people. As they are digital natives, it’s our job to meet them where they are.”

Jonathan Colvin, Principal, Bridgeport Middle School
Two people are in a video call and are excited in front of the camera

When Shannon looks back on her first year with the Dynamic Learning Project, she’s particularly grateful for the connections across different networks. “This school year represents the most growth I’ve experienced in my educational career,” she reflects. “I’ve learned so much, made contacts with so many like-minded educators, and I hope I’ve made as positive an impact on those educators as they have had on me.”

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