By John Balch
After years of struggling to catch up with technology, Murfreesboro High School has leapt ahead and is now the only Apple Distinguished School in Arkansas.
MHS joins just 400 schools worldwide (in 29 countries) who have received the distinction. Apple Distinguished Schools are described as “centers of leadership and educational excellence that demonstrate Apple’s vision for learning with technology — and we believe they are some of the most innovative schools in the world.” The schools use Apple products to “inspire creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.”
“This is something to get excited about,” Superintendent Roger Featherston told the teachers, students and school board members assembled for a presentation last Wednesday about being the only school in the state to currently hold the status.
Featherston credited members of the South Pike County School Board, particularly President Steve Conly, for consistently pushing for technology advancement within the district, which includes elementary campuses in Murfreesboro and Delight.
Featherston also acknowledged the district’s Director of Programs Tanya Wilcher and technology consultant Chad Brinkely for their efforts in not only securing the Apple honor but moving the district ahead in the technology field.
The district’s quest to expand its technology capabilities began only a few years ago. When the district opened the school year in 2016, it was the first district in the state to use the new iPad Pro in a 1:1 setting in grades 7-12. The devices also started the ball rolling in the direction of the honor bestowed last week.
“In a few years span, we’ve gone from being light years behind in technology to being really on the cutting edge,” Featherston said in 2016.
The district’s commitment to Apple products also resulted in the district being the first in the state to see the then-new Apple software called Apple Classroom and Apple School Manager.
The high school will now become a pilot program for other schools looking to make technology advances. “It used to be the other way around,” Featherston noted.
“It has long been the goal of South Pike County School District, to provide ‘what’s best’ for our students,” said Featherston. “Using ‘what’s best’ as a lens for decisions regarding innovation and technology is what led to the adoption of the 1:1 initiative at Murfreesboro High School.”
The selection of MHS as an Apple Distinguished School highlights the school’s success as an innovative and compelling learning environment that engages students and provides tangible evidence of academic accomplishment.
Students are using iPad Pro for project-based learning activities that allow them to write a book, code a game, write songs or make music videos about their topic. Allowing students to use their creativity has helped with student engagement and achievement.
“As we begin to build our coding curriculum we hope to see our students building apps in the future,” said Wilcher, who added the goal of the district is to provide 21st Century skills to students through innovation and technology being infused into instruction and curriculum.
As part of the designation by Apple, an iBook created by the students and staffers about school will be uploaded to the iTunes store and will be available for download. The school will also be featured on the Apple website.