By John Balch
There are only 470 schools worldwide with the status of Apple Distinguished School and two of them are in the South Pike County School District.
The announcement was made last week that Murfreesboro High School has again been recognized with the honor for 2019-2022 and that Murfreesboro Elementary School has also been named an Apple Distinguished School (ADS) for 2019-2022.
The two local schools are the only schools in the state with this distinction.
Apple Distinguished Schools are “centers of innovation, leadership and educational experience that use technology to inspire creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. They showcase innovative uses of technology in learning, teaching and the school environment and have documented results of academic accomplishment”
MHS was first recognized as an ADS in November 2017 and after years of struggling to catch up with technology, the school found itself on the leading edge. The district’s quest to expand its technology capabilities began only a few years before and when the district opened for the 2016 school year it was the first district in the state to use the new iPad Pro in a 1:1 setting in grades 7-12.
Tanya Wilcher, director of programs for the school district, said the distinction was the result of the district’s successful 1:1 deployment and innovative use of iPads, which are provided to all staff and students on all three campuses of the SPSD.
“Being recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for the second time is a recognition to the hard work and dedication of students, teachers and staff,” said MHS Principal Davey Jones. “The sustained commitment to our 1:1 initiative allows all involved to work, learn and teach in a 21st Century environment and helps make the MHS experience personal.”
Elementary Principal Cindy Lee added, “I enjoy sharing ‘good things’ that are happening at our school. Our 1:1 iPad initiative has certainly proven to be one of those good things. I am excited to see student engagement and success increase as our teachers work together to find new and creative ways to utilizes educational technology.”
The occasion was marked Wednesday, Nov. 20 with a special event at the high school where Arkansas Commission of Education Johnny Key and other officials spent the day at the school to observe and deliver comments to those in attendance.
A video message from Gov. Asa Hutchinson was also to be played at the celebration, congratulating the two schools.
According to Wilcher, the special distinctions for the two schools highlights our success as an innovative and compelling learning environment that engages students and provides tangible evidence of academic accomplishment.
“Students using iPads for project-based learning activities that allow then to write a book, code a game, write songs or make music videos about their topic,” she said. “Allowing our students to use their creativity has helped with student engagement and achievement. As we continue to build our coding curriculum, we are seeing our students build their own apps. We are excited to see the growth in knowledge and use of technology and the impact on our students’ contributions to the 21st Century marketplace.”
As part of the designation by Apple, iBooks will be created by the students and staffers on both campuses about the schools and will be uploaded to iTunes and will be available for download. The schools will also be featured on the Apple website.