Surry County Schools has been awarded a grant of more than $40,000 for a digital learning initiative.
The N.C. State Board of Education announced earlier this month that the school system is one of 10 that will receive Showcase Grants through the Department of Public Instruction; the grants are so named because they are aimed at showcasing digital learning practices from across the state.
Lucas Gillispie, the district’s director of academic and digital learning, applied for the grant for the Epic Academy that he developed. The state awarded the school system $42,294.
Epic Academy is “an innovative, online, gamified professional development program,” according to a statement released by Sonia Dickerson, director of communication, teacher quality and instructional media.
“Through this program, teachers choose from a variety of learning quests tied to using digital learning in the classroom,” she wrote. “For example, they may choose to learn more about using Skype to host live chats with authors or classrooms from other parts of the world. They may choose to learn more about how students can use Google tools to collaborate with each other on projects.
”If they successfully complete a series of quests and share evidence of how their students used these tools to enhance their learning, they (the teachers) can earn a badge that shows their expertise with a particular tool or idea and continuing education units in digital learning competencies required by the state to maintain licensure,” Dickerson said.
The state school board awarded the grant to expand the use of Epic Academy and to share its strategies with educators across North Carolina and beyond.
The funds received from the grant will allow Surry County Schools to:
• Expand the program to all district educators through the purchase of Rezzly licenses – the platform that houses the content developed;
• Double the existing content, making more learning quests and badges available to teachers;
• Create a mentorship program for teachers who are new to the program. This will involve a series of learning quests developed by Dr. Lisa Dawley of UNC-Chapel Hill, co-creator of the Rezzly platform;
• Host a statewide symposium in Surry County for educators to learn more about best practices in gamification, quest-based learning, and micro-credentialing;
• Support a number of program participants’ participation in relevant digital learning conferences such as the N.C. Technology in Education Society;
• Share the content, pioneered in Surry County Schools, to support educators across the state.
“As we continue to strengthen our digital-rich learning environments, Epic Academy provides teachers with choice in what and how they learn,” said Dr. Jill Reinhardt, assistant superintendent.
“We are proud to showcase the work championed by Mr. Gillispie, and we are certainly appreciative of the partnership with Dr. Lisa Dawley of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”