A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Commentary: K-12 school districts leaders in development of Silicon Holler and the new economy

By Ron Daley
Special to KyForward

Our communities need to move beyond “Kentucky Work Ready Communities” to “Future Work Ready Communities.” Communities need to advance to a higher level of community and economic development, ensuring they build their own global economy ports.

The Kentucky State Workforce Board and Economic Development Cabinet deserve praise for establishing the highest level of standards in the nation for counties to meet in order to show they have high levels of an available skilled workforce. A key critical criteria is for counties to show at least 90 percent of their citizens have access to broadband. However, access does not translate into economic benefits unless communities have plans to use the technology to grow the New Economy there.

K-12 school districts and the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) in southeastern Kentucky have been at work for years to bring the vision of Congressman Hal Rogers, “Silicon Holler,” to reality. Even prior to the creation of SOAR, KVEC launched plans to help counties gain Work Ready Community status and assist in their planning to promote New Economy opportunities.

K-12 students will move into careers that do not exist presently and in many instances the students will be creating their own jobs. Their teachers and leaders are being trained to be both entrepreneurial and mentors of the New Economy workforce.

KVEC has been using resources from their 2013 Race to the Top grant award to develop the New Economy workforce in eastern Kentucky. Taking advantage of authoring the largest roll-out of Next Generation Classroom technology in rural America, KVEC has instituted several strategies to prepare the region for Silicon Holler. Some of the strategies include:

— The expansion of the digital platform, The Holler. The Holler is a K-12 learning platform and community development tool that connects the region for development and learning.
— Creation of the Appalachian Technology Initiative (ATI) providing curriculum and career pathways for over 1,000 students
— Next Generation training for teachers and educators, grants for teachers to create innovations in classrooms and formation of Appalachian Learning Laboratory for advanced professional learning that develops shared leadership capacity within and across schools and engages community advocates as part of a school’s shared leadership team.
— Student leadership programs, community problem solving using technology and entrepreneurial training and competitions relying on technology.
— Creation of a toolkit that prepares communities for the New Economy.
— Formation of Silicon Holler Workgroup and Millennial RoundTable
— FIRE summits showcasing and sharing classroom innovation with 10,000 face to face and virtual participants.

Over 125 teachers will present their exciting classroom innovations in learning on April 12 at the Pikeville Expo Center to the several hundred persons gathered at the aforementioned FIRE summit and to an estimated over 10,000 viewers who will watch the event broadcast live around the world at www.theholler.org.

The Fire Summit (Formerly called the Action Research Summit) showcases the amazing work of eastern Kentucky students and teachers. The three Tiny Houses designed and constructed by the students will be present for the beginning of the on-line auction. Student winners in coding and the Open Box App Design Challenge, will be honored.

There is no fee, however, registration is required for the event which run 8:30 am to 3:30 p.m. and lunch provided. For more information contact Valarie Campbell via email valarie.campbell@hazard.kyschools.us or visit www.kentuckyvalley.org.

The future of the region is bright due to the bright minds of its teaches and students.

To register on Eventbrite click here.

In order to access the Silicon Holler/New Economy Community Tool Kit visit this site.

Ron Daley is the strategic partner lead for the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative. He lives in Hazard, KY and his email is ron.daley@kctcs.edu

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