A Maryland District Reignites its Digital Transformation

By Tom Clowes

Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) has been, historically, one of the best performing school systems in the state of Maryland.  In most of the academic state reported categories, CCPS has ranked in the top one or two spots for many years. 

CCPS generally has been a very traditional school system dominated by paper and pencil and stand and deliver teaching.  Our graduates have succeeded in two-year and four-year colleges as well as trade schools, the world of work and the military.  About 75% of graduates attend a two or four-year college or university.

With the advent of digital tools for education, CCPS, as a system, took a very cautious approach toward adopting and using these tools in the classroom, adopting a rigorous vetting process for the approval of digital tools for use in the classroom.  Student data privacy, and the protection of student data, through strict compliance with FERPA, COPPA, and Maryland State Laws was at the core of the vetting process.  Teachers would request use of a digital tool through an automated process.  Next, a central office staff member would review the privacy policy and terms of use of the digital tool to see if they met our rigorous student data privacy policy.  This process was lengthy and tended to take a good deal of time to move through, thus slowing the approval of digital tools for the use in the classroom. 

In 2013, one tool that did make it through our vetting process was Discovery Education's product line, including Discovery Education Experience, Math Techbook, and Science Techbook.  These products are infused into our curriculum and offer our teachers and students excellent digital content for use in the classroom.  Our teachers send content to students, develop assessments, develop studio boards, collaborate with each, have students develop studio boards, and collaborate with each other in a digital and safe environment.

Fast forward to 2018 and a new superintendent reignited interested in digital integration. During the summer of 2018 several meetings were held to develop the path to digital integration. Our vision includes transforming our learning environment to a blended learning environment where students have the ability to learn on multiple platforms, including Google and Microsoft, and through various learning environments including on-line learning. Using Title IV grant monies CCPS developed a plan to train 120 teachers on several of our basic digital tools including Office 365, One Note, and other Microsoft applications (forms, teams, etc.) and get those teachers to a baseline level. 

In the fall of 2018 CCPS met with stakeholders to develop a new student data privacy policy that safeguarded student data and allowed digital tools to be vetted in a timelier fashion. During the spring of 2019, CCPS gathered together stakeholders to begin the development of a new district technology plan, replacing the plan from several years ago. 

Continuing on during spring 2019, our superintendent began the push for the use of both the Microsoft and Google platforms to better prepare our students for operating systems they may encounter in college and career environments. The Instructional Technology team is leading the way in the development of trainings for those staff members who do not know the Google platform. 

Looking ahead, CCPS is in process of procuring a learning management system (LMS) to help direct a shift to a more blended learning approach to teaching and learning. 

CCPS stands at the cusp of a major digital transformation.  Eventually, students will use a learning Management System to access curriculum, complete and turn in assignments, collaborate with students and teachers, and be able to learn in multiple platforms.  Teachers will be able to develop lessons that are more student centered, and create an environment where students take more ownership of their learning.  New energy has been introduced and technology is one of the driving force behind this new energy which will lead CCPS toward a bright future. 

Tom Clowes has served as high school Assistant Principal, High School Principal, Coordinator of Curriculum and Instructional Resources and the State of Maryland Tech Prep Coordinator. He has also taught teacher certification classes at Carroll Community College in Maryland. He also parrticipates in the Discovery Education Network (DEN) for his school district.  


young boy sitting at computer with headphones