For some schools, big changes are afoot. For others, it's status quo
One question Livability often gets is: How can I get my city on your Best Places to Live list? We’ve given some suggestions from time to time, but say you want to put some ideas into practice and you don’t know where to start. I now have a really good answer for you: Take these classes.Richard Florida addresses the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in 2013.
This fall, the NYU School of Professional Studies will begin offering a new certificate program called the Certificate in Creative Cities and Economic Development. Developed by Richard Florida and longtime collaborator Steven Pedigo, the virtual classes will help city leaders, economic development professionals, nonprofit heads and, I’m guessing (hoping?), a few muckrakers and city council gadflies learn how to make their cities better and stronger places to live and work. The online classes are open to all comers for a fairly modest investment in time and tuition. Some of the classes meet at a specified time. Other work is done offline. Students need to take two required courses and two electives to earn the certificate. One of the required classes is really all about numbers. Learning how to read trends, understand demographics and understand your city’s economic advantages. Doesn’t that sound helpful? Other classes in the program include “Creative Placemaking,” “Resilient Cities” and “Maps and Geospatial Analysis.” I asked Richard why it was important for cities and their leaders to be paying attention to livability, economic development and placemaking, especially in light of budget woes, school quality and pension deficits. His response was quick and to the point: “Because this is the only way they can grow and become more inclusive.” The last word is important there. For those who have followed Dr. Florida’s work, he’s always had a belief that cities need to be more accessible for people of all incomes and that there’s a need for both the “Creative Class” and the service professions to thrive. But more recently, he’s been beating that second half of the drum even harder. If our cities are to continue to be economic engines of equality, they need to work for people of all incomes. The cities that understand how all of these things interplay will be the ones that succeed in our changing economy. Essentially, the program sounds like a toolkit to give you ideas for your city on the one hand, but more importantly measure them and make a data-driven, map-illustrated case to sell them to the constituencies and stakeholders who need to fund and support all of these new great ideas. Granted, you can get pretty far reading the right blogs and attending the right conferences. But for many, a more traditional and structured way of learning (as traditional as a virtual class can be) can really help kick-start things. You can get more information on the classes here.
When it comes to keeping pace with technology in schools, the public school district in McAllen, Texas stands out with an ambitious plan called TLC3, which stands for "Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus and Community" and relies on mobile devices to bring about that transformation.
Technology in Schools
As of the 2012-13 school year, MISD issued 25,000 iPads to teachers and students throughout its system, which comprises 20 elementary schools, seven middle schools and five high schools. Every student in first through 12th grades has an iPad for school use, while every pre-K and Kindergarten student received an iPod Touch.
As a result, the McAllen Independent School District places third in the world among the Top 100 iPad deployments, including private company and government agency purchases. When it comes to iPad rollouts in schools, MISD places second only to the San Diego Unified School District, which purchased 26,000 iPad 2s for use in specific middle and high school classes.
We first wrote about the district introducing McAllen students and teachers to iPads in early 2012, after learning about the initiative while working with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce on its annual program to promote the city to newcomers. The initial program started with groups of 10 teachers in 14 different schools using 5,000 iPads with their students. By fall 2012, the second phase brought the technology to every school and student.
Still in its first full year, only time and test scores will tell how the new teaching and learning methods affect student performance overall. However, at least one MISD elementary school already reports dramatic increases in student reading participation levels. Other "successes" are more testimonial in nature, with teachers and parents sharing how students seem more engaged in the more interactive ways of learning, such as first graders using the iPod Touch to record their voices while reading, sign language students teaching others through video and a NASA engineer delivering a lecture to a class via Facetime.
Beyond test scores, the students are learning how to use everyday technology beyond what most kids are used to when it comes to digital environments (social media and games) to absorb more traditional and educationally valuable subjects. Computers in schools clearly is not a new concept, nor is issuing laptops to students throughout a system. Mobility makes the difference with iPads, as does overall expense.
The latter, in part, motivated MISD Superintendent Dr. James Ponce to contact Apple while the district considered alternatives to more-costly laptops and desktops. MISD later enlisted the company in helping shape the new TLC3 strategy. MISD negotiated with the company a financing deal of about $3.5 million a year, according to the same Bloomberg Businessweek article linked above. The district tapped funding from state, private and federal sources for the five-year initiative.
What about equipment loss? Maintenance? Inappropriate (or simply noneducational) use? MISD coordinator for network services addresses these and other questions in this Q&A with The Journal.