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Graves County Schools, stakeholders partner with Dell EMC to envision digital learning customized to students

In a world where the very jobs today’s students will work haven’t been invented, how can schools prepare them for their adult lives and careers? That question centered discussion for “Envisioning Day,” as the Graves County School District and technology giant Dell EMC posed it to stakeholders recently.
         “Everything here is focused through the perspective of a young person and how their life will be different,” said Tom Osmun of Dell EMC. “They live with technology. So, it’s about how a student’s life is different in a school system, now that they have such large volumes of information available to them.”

Osmun’s colleague, Matt Dascoli, added, “Ultimately, the fact that all of these (approximately 40) folks have gathered during the summer to talk about what classroom experiences could be and how those experiences actually can impact students’ lives is exciting!”

“We try to help districts see that any change implemented should affect the student’s relationship with the school, so that the student’s life is changed,” Osmun explained. “So, we focus on student-centered learning.”

“It’s important is to hear the voices of the people here,” Dascoli said. “There might already be pockets of reinvention of school happening. We want to bring that to the surface. If it’s not happening, how can we, as a school community, allow that change to reinvent what school can look like?”

Graves County Middle School will pioneer one aspect of 21st century learning during the 2017-18 school year, when the school assigns each student a Chromebook. Making individual technology available to each student at both home and school in a unified way should change the learning landscape significantly.

“Young people today require different experiences to learn now and they will require different experiences for the work they’ll do tomorrow. I think that’s why we’re here today,” said Osmun. “One of the things we’re seeing from recent graduates is that they are extremely hard-working. They work all the time really. It just looks different than it did for my parents’ generation, because the younger generation is constantly-connected to digital technology.”

Farmington Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Becky Stratton participated in Envisioning Day. “The teacher is the No. 1 influence in the classroom,” she explained. “It’s the teacher’s job to be trained and educated, to keep up with the changing technology and ahead of the students, who are learning at a rapid pace. I want to use technology as a tool in my classroom for students to learn in different ways. That’s where the person comes in… making learning personal for the student, based on their interests, their likes, and taking those standards I’m given by the state and teaching them in a more hands-on, personal way. It’s very doable!”

FNB Bank marketing director Brooke Wiles also participated. “My role is how can we in the business community help students feel like they’re not trapped inside a classroom all day?” she asked. “Can we have them job shadow? Can we get them out of the classroom, learning through hands-on experience? Or at the sponsorship level, can we in the business community sponsor Chromebooks? So, our role is to see what their goals are and how we can help in practical ways.”

Graves High senior Corey Shoemaker and Sedalia sixth-grader Bennent Routen participated in Envisioning Day. Both say they’ve used technology at least five years. So, working with it comes naturally.

“I think this will be a great idea for learning in today’s world,” Shoemaker said of the day’s discussion. One particular new idea he likes is “comfortable furniture.” GCMS has waded into new ideas in that regard. For example, one teacher’s classroom includes living room furniture and a picnic table, rather than the traditional rows of school desks. “It’s a different world today,” Shoemaker explained, “so, it makes sense to approach it differently.”

“I’m kind of on both sides,” Routen interjected. “It would be great to have that technology to use. On the other hand, it could be selfish, like kids are sometimes with a fidget spinner that distracts other students.” He said he thinks students need to control themselves.

Wiles noted that customizing learning to the individual through technology, in many ways, is an extension of what already happens in the marketplace, with technology applications customized to the individual, such as music through Pandora or TV through Net Flix.

“For this kind of digital learning to work, it requires training, funding, and community buy-in,” she said. “It won’t happen overnight.”

(photo caption)

Matt Dascoli (standing) of Dell EMC makes a point, as he leads discussion among some 40 stakeholders of the Graves County Schools during “Envisioning Day” late this summer. He said, “It’s important is to hear the voices of the people here.” His Dell EMC colleague, Tom Osumun, added, “Everything here is focused through the perspective of a young person and how their life will be different. They live with technology. So, it’s about how a student’s life is different in a school system, now that they have such large volumes of information available to them.” Graves County Middle School will pioneer one aspect of 21st century learning during the 2017-18 school year, when the school assigns each student a Chromebook.

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