Meshing the requirements of business and industry with the educational system in the country has long been a point of argument and contention as more and better jobs are sought for the citizens. Local educators believe that they have come up with a solution, albeit a long-term one.
The Jackson County Public School Board (JCSB) introduced Digital Jackson Students and Teachers Achieving with Technology (DJ-STAT), at the Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday Power Breakfast Oct. 3. Michael Kilts, Supervisor of Federal Programs at JCSB, detailed the tablet system and its implementation for kindergarten through third grade.
Kilts emphasized that “student achievement has to improve and it has to improve now.” The intention of DJ-STAT is to prepare students for college and careers by providing a one - to - one student to computer environment.
The Windows 8 device is durable and lightweight, with a built in handle for easy transport. The school district, in partnership with Intel, Microsoft and CDI Computers, will provide the devices to students in a gradual rollout. The tablets will be ready for grades K-3 after Christmas Break, followed by grades 4-8 and finally grades 9-12. The full implementation is scheduled to be complete August 2016. “There will be over 7,000 computers in Jackson County, with every student having one in the classroom,” Kilts said.
“To increase our capacity of support to teachers we are developing 14 technology mentor teachers to support the other 135 K-3 teachers in training on how to incorporate the device they receive and how they can improve instruction in the classroom using the student device.” Kilts said.
The cost of this one-to-one initiative in Jackson County is approximately $2.25 million in taxpayer funds, which equates to $360 per child. A funding overview focused on realignment and repurposing of soon-to-be antiquated devices, such as copy machines and text books as well as replacing paid services with free resources.
Kilts addressed the business leaders saying “we are educating your future workforce in the next 10, 20, 30 years.” He asked businesses to “help us create that system that will support you in the future. Come be a part of our school system; come volunteer.” Kilts stated that they are always looking for donations and funding opportunities to support the teachers and students.
There are “over 360 industry certifications that can be provided in a high school setting” Kilts said. Computer software certifications such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office are important in some industries and give the student an edge in the workforce. “Which one’s should we do in Jackson County?” Kilts asked.
A question and answer session followed with the first question “Why didn’t you start with grades 9-12?” Kilts explained that during the planning stages, they learned from other districts that had started with grades 9-12, the students were ready but the teachers were not.
Another question was posed regarding Common Core strategies to which Kilts replied “these students with these devices are pretty much going to do Common Core standards or New Florida Standards as they are called now, without even blinking an eye. They are not even going to know they are doing Common Core.” He further explained that the process of learning the analysis of different ways to find solutions would be practically automatic with these devices.
Questions were raised about the repurposing and textbooks. Kilts detailed resources such as free e-books and other web-based programs, will save the district money. Textbooks cost the district over $600,000 each year and are available online in pdf format for about $15 each.