In the last year, Greeneville City Schools have fully embraced the Digital Transformation initiative, buying and deploying new computers for almost all the system’s students.

In early 2016, more than 1,100 new computers were assigned to city students in grades 3-8 after city school board members signed off on the purchases in late 2015. Later, in the fall, hundreds more were bought to expand the 1:1 student/device ratio to grades 2-12.

State funds to prepare school systems for new, required online standardized assessments, textbook funds and donations made possible by the Greeneville City Schools Education Foundation’s Reach4IT fundraising initiative provided for the purchases.

“This is an example of what can be accomplished in a community when people work together,” said Greeneville City Director of Schools Dr. Jeff Moorhouse when the new systems were being assigned to students during an event at Tusculum View Elementary School. “We want to express thanks to the individuals and businesses in the community for making this happen. There is a responsibility we feel as an education system to make this transform teaching and learning in our schools.”

So far, that transformation appears to be taking place.

Students aren’t just using educational software on the new machines. They have their own individual Microsoft Office accounts, complete with cloud storage, email, all the standard office software like word processing, spreadsheets and more.

All of that tech supports “personalized learning” efforts throughout the school system — an increasingly emphasized concept in the field of education. With their own computers, software and accounts, students are able to monitor their own custom-tailored learning goals, get quick access to help when doing lessons and collaborate and submit assignments online.

At a special event in the spring, dubbed the Digital Transformation Expo, students took the lead in showing off the classroom technology they use every day — everything from computers to circuit boards, a robot, a drone and more.

“Cool” and “awesome” seemed to be the words of the day for kids and adults alike as the crowd worked its way around different stations checking out the new era of classroom tools.

“Wouldn’t it have been awesome to go to school with technology like this?” Moorhouse asked at the event. “The students of Greeneville City Schools never cease to amaze. They are challenging us to raise the bar in new and relevant ways.”

GCS Assistant Director of Schools and Chief Technology Officer Beverly Miller said the showcase was a way to demonstrate how comfortable students and teachers have become with new approaches to learning.

“The Digital Transformation Expo was a wonderful opportunity for our district to showcase the group we are most proud of — our students,” she said. “It was so rewarding for educators throughout the district to be able to learn from our kids. They are so comfortable and confident when it comes to utilizing instructional technology as part of the learning process. Our teachers are to be commended for allowing them to lead the way.”

In the months that have followed, the city school system has earned national recognition for its innovative use of classroom technology.

The Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association listed the school system as ninth in the nation among districts with small student populations in its annual Digital School Districts Survey, recognizing “exemplary use of technology.”

Later, in the summer, the district was recognized in a nationwide publication for its efforts to transform and personalize learning for each individual student.

Education Networks of America, the nation’s largest provider of network infrastructure for schools and libraries, spotlighted GCS in its newsletter, distributed nationwide. The same feature was picked up for further distribution by national nonprofit P21, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning.

ENA billed the spotlight on Greeneville schools as “Cultivating Excellence: A Successful Model for Digital Transformation,” which explained how GCS “is leveraging technology to effectively personalize its learning environments.”

Technology-driven instructional practices, like GCS’ “IT Teacher Academy,” LEGO League robotics teams, new methods of communication among students and teachers and the variety of programs and applications accessible to city students were also discussed.

In the fall, representatives from Discovery Education visited Greeneville for a Digital Transformation Showcase, shared with school systems all across America.

Discovery Education, part of Discovery Digital Media, a division of Discovery Communications, determined to visit Greeneville to highlight its “best practices” to other school systems.

“Greeneville City Schools is at the forefront of the innovative use of technology to improve student learning and engagement,” said Rob Warren, vice president of partnerships for Discovery Education. “We are looking forward to helping bring other school districts from across the nation to Greeneville to witness firsthand how they are transforming teaching and learning across the district.”