City schools to hire digital specialist
by Paige Rentz
As the Jacksonville City School district prepares to put personal electronic devices in the hands of its students next fall, officials are looking to hire a digital guru to help the process along.

The Board of Education approved a new position for a digital instructional specialist to help teachers integrate this technology into the classroom.

Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell said the new hire, along with current specialist Deanna Long, will serve “to make sure those teachers have a person they can go to … somebody that’s very available to provide that safety net for them.”

The job description as approved Thursday requires applicants have at least five years of experience as a classroom teacher and a thorough understanding of curriculum on various grade levels. In addition to classroom experience, applicants must know and continue to keep abreast of digital resources and be able to coordinate technology training for teachers and administrators.

Campbell said he could not give a specific salary for the new position, as the new employee will fall under guidelines for teacher pay depending on experience and education. However, the salary will fall between $51,024 and $58,678 depending on education and experience, based on figures provided by Sara Blount, the school system’s chief financial officer.

The digital conversion program is part of a push to emphasize skills such as communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration through challenge- and project-based learning that makes use of the new technology.

Campbell said Thursday that the digital specialist’s role in providing training for teachers is a key component of the district’s digital conversion process.

A committee of teachers, administrators, district officials and parents has recommended assigning each student in grades four through 12 an iPad. Each classroom in grades kindergarten through three getting will receive a set of eight devices to set up a digital center for daily use in the classroom.

Teachers received an iPad and MacBook at the beginning of the current school year in order to familiarize themselves with the devices and learn to integrate the technology into their curricula.

Kitty Stone Elementary School Principal Christy Hamilton said teachers’ knowledge of challenge-based learning and comfort with the new technology has run the gamut, but the constant training, especially sets of subject-specific training last week, has helped ease some of the apprehensions that may have existed before.

“There were a lot of positive comments coming out of that,” added Rhonda Tinker, an assistant principal at Kitty Stone. She said teachers were coming back with “good ideas, practical ideas, and ways to use equipment they already have in their rooms right now.”

Hamilton said she recently ordered 20 new iPads to complement a set of 10 so that teachers can have access to a full classroom set of the devices in the library to use with their students.

“So that next year when we do put them in everybody’s hands,” she said, “it will reduce that anxiety about having them.”
© 2013