Tech use sets students up for college, career success
Beginning college or entering the workforce in this day and age requires use of technology of some sort, not only in technology-based fields.
Faculty and staff at Madison County School District are working to provide access to a variety of devices and software so that students are getting acclimated before they leave the nest and enter the real world.
“We are utilizing different platforms so that students are well-rounded when they leave,” said Chris Graves, a technology integration specialist for the district. “By the time they leave Madison County Schools, they are well-rounded and can go into various fields and various colleges and use different platforms.”
According to Graves, students have technology education beginning in kindergarten.
He said they work with the schools, administrators and teachers to develop tech curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade students.
“Part of that technology curriculum has been integrated with learning.com, which helps to distribute technology skills to allow students to grow in that at a very early age,” Graves said.
This covers everything from typing to what email is to how to move documents around.
“It just covers a plethora of technology instruction,” he said. “So, they get it from a very early age there.”
He said then in middle school and high school, students build on those skills.
In high school, students use Canvas, which Graves said prepares them for using it when they enter college, for the students who choose that route.
“We also use Office 365, which is something they would use in secondary education or a career field,” he said.
Chromebooks, Macbooks and PC labs are all used in the district. Graves said this allows students to get comfortable using different types of devices, so they are ready when they go to college or enter the workforce and are required to use one of those devices.
“They’ll have experience with all of those and will be prepared for those,” he said.
Some teachers have even pursued some coding and computer science certifications so that they can bring that training experience into the labs and give their students the chance to learn those skills.
Graves said a teacher in the district recently went to a Raspberry Pi training course and certification.
“That’s not candy or pie, it’s a computer device in its simplest form that students can plug into the wall and start to program and code and things like that,” he said. “They were talking about building weather systems with it. There’s so much that can be done with it with coding.”
While middle school and high school students will use this, Graves said that younger students could use the device as well.
“We try to integrate those things to give them a wide variety of experiences,” Graves said. “There are also a lot of opportunities at the academies once students reach the high school level to really prepare them for more specific career areas.”
Aimee Brown, Director of Career and Technical Education and Career Academies, said that the middle school curriculum will see a shift in the near future to feature an emphasis in computer science.
“That is an initiative started by the state of Mississippi called Computer Science for Mississippi,” she said. “They looked at industry data, and there were plenty of computer science jobs and not enough trained workers to take them. So, we will be moving into a new curriculum as early as next year, possibly two years from now, where a lot of our courses will have a coding and computer science initiative.”
The district has career academies spread across the district, including a multimedia academy, healthcare academy, engineering, multimedia production and a culinary arts and engineering.
“There is a lot of technology embedded into those,” she said. “We have several students who take high tech video production. Last year, they used Final Cut Pro, and they actually designed a short film and did all the filming and editing with Final Cut Pro.”
The students submitted their film for the All-American High School Film Festival. There were 13,000 entries, and the group from Madison County was one of only 50 teams that were chosen from around the country to go to New York to compete in a film event.
Graves said that students are natural consumers of technology. He added that another main goal of the district is to encourage them to not only be consumers, but to teach them how to generate quality content.
Students get the chance to work with equipment and programs to get some broadcasting experience.
They also design much of the graphics that are used on the scoreboard.
Students also put together the football hype videos. The students also record the games.
Brown said the academies start with ninth grade.
“So, they come out of ninth grade with all of their Final Cut skills and then they just add to that each year,” she said.
Two teachers at the district are going through training to be Final Cut certified. The closest place to this area to receive that certification is in Houston.
Once the teachers complete that, students will have the opportunity to be certified in Final Cut without having to leave the school district.
“Once we’re set up, we can be a testing center,” she said. “It could be a service to the state as a whole eventually, so we are hoping to get that accomplished this year.”
Brown said that they encourage students to leave the academies with at least one national certification credential.
Brown and Graves both agree that as technology changes rapidly, the district is changing to keep up with those advances, the goal being to provide students with all the skills needed to be college and career ready.