Mississippi Implements Groundbreaking Technology Initiative
The state of Mississippi has made huge strides in academic growth over the last several years, and the global pandemic of 2020 did not slow them down!
Under the leadership of Mississippi Department of Education Superintendent, Dr. Carey Wright, the state was able to procure funding from the Mississippi Legislature for their MS Connects Digital Learning Initiative: a state-wide technology implementation plan to ensure every student would receive the technology needed to learn, whether at school or at home.
A plan of this magnitude was unheard of prior to 2020, but Mississippi state leaders believed in it and made it happen. In fact, the MS Connects Initiative was planned and started in a matter of weeks after approval.
In the Fall of 2020, 325,000 computer devices were distributed to students across the state, and with that came the need for teacher professional development opportunities on the purposeful integration of technology into instruction.
MDE called upon several technology partners (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Canvas, Intel, Schoology, and friEdTech) to support this next phase of MS Connects through providing high quality professional development on a range of topics from student engagement to best practices for hybrid and online instruction and learning.
How does one even know where to start with designing and implementing a digital learning professional development plan for an entire state? Well, it’s definitely not something that happens overnight. It takes time, resources, and most importantly, relationships!
As the primary professional development partner for the MS Connects Initiative, friEdTech has been working alongside the MDE Digital and Professional Learning leaders since the fall of 2020 to establish some shared PD goals:
Overarching Goals for friEdTech’s Partnership with MS Connects:
- Provide synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities available to all Mississippi educators around the purposeful integration of technology.
- Obtain ongoing feedback from MDE and Mississippi educators who attend friEdTech learning experiences to ensure alignment to state and district goals.
- Provide supplemental resources for teachers, administrators, students, and parents aligned with state and district goals.
- Work with school district leadership teams to develop digital learning PD plans aligned with their goals.
- Facilitate digital learning academies for coaches, teachers, and administrators to increase technology integration capacity.
This was a tall order for sure, but our friEdTech team made up of Google and Microsoft trainers and Innovators with more decades of technology integration experience than we can count was equipped and ready for the challenge. So, with these goals in mind, we set out to create the following meaningful and purposeful experiences for Mississippi educators:
- The Hub: a one-stop shop website called The MS Connects Professional Development and Resources Hub where Mississippi educators can find the most current synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities in addition to a myriad of other resources;
- Tech Help Facebook Group: a comfortable, and engaging place for MS educators to share, connect, and grow their Professional Learning Network (PLN);
- Webinars: a variety of engaging and interactive webinars available for educators to attend throughout the school year and summer, centered around best practices for digital integration using Google and Microsoft tools with purpose;
- friEdOnline: a customized catalog of on-demand courses in which MS educators can participate anytime and at their own pace to learn and apply new skills while building their confidence with tech integration;
- Digital Learning Conferences – MS Connects Summit: virtual and face-to-face conferences with keynote speakers and breakout sessions on a wide-range of topics from student engagement to best practices for hybrid and online instruction and learning;
- Relationships. Relationships. Relationships: Consistent personal connections with school district leaders to provide personalized support and the opportunity for them to request specific learning experiences for their teachers and staff through PD Action Planning;
- Building Capacity: Ongoing work with cohorts of instructional coaches, teachers and administrators to increase their depth of knowledge with technology and the best ways to utilize the tools in order to influence and grow others on their campuses.
In our work with MS Connects, the goal is not to just deliver training to Mississippi educators, instead we strive to build relationships, grow leaders, and build technology capacity so that when our work with MS Connects is technically finished in 2025, the districts will have teachers, coaches, and administrators who can step up and continue to build upon the foundation that was established as a result of the MS Connects Initiative.
We have just ended year one of our work with MS Connects and we have so much more to do, but we couldn’t be happier with what we have seen so far. Educators who attend our webinars, academies, and participate in our online courses are growing in confidence, and their outlooks on using tech with purpose is overwhelmingly positive. We are so excited about everything that’s on the horizon for all of the educators and students in the great state of Mississippi and are so proud and honored to be part of it!
What are MS Educators Saying About friEdTech Learning Experiences?
“This training was absolutely fabulous! I can’t wait to use some of these things in my classroom.”
“So. Many. Useful. Tips! I can use all of these right away! Thanks so much!”
“You guys are great presenters… information is complex & can be stressful; but not with you…awesome!”
“This was the most (non-tech savvy) user friendly learning experience I have had in years! THANK YOU, THANK YOU! THANK YOU!”
“This was an enjoyable way to complete professional development. There was a lot of quality content and I felt like the course was designed to get to the point instead of wasting a lot of time getting there a roundabout way.”
“I’d love to do more! I’ve learned more with the friEdTech programs than in-person PD because I am going at my own pace and interacting without distractions rather than watching an overhead projector and listening to a lecture.”
“We should prepare ourselves not just for today, but for tomorrow & beyond as well. And for that, this course receives the highest honor I can bestow: ‘Cheers.’”