By Meg Dickens
Johnson County Schools (JCS) has been focusing more heavily on technology since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools prematurely during the 2019-2020 school year. The JCS Board has been streaming its meetings online on YouTube since April of 2020 and making plans on how to improve digital learning. During the July 9 meeting at Central Office, the board discussed how to use technology to benefit everyone.
According to the Johnson County School Board and sources, including the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act can be used for technology infrastructure. Officials plan to use funds from the CARES Act to pay for new equipment for both the board and individual schools. Johnson County Schools ordered Chromebooks for student use, and officials plan to upgrade streaming equipment. There will also be several iPads in stock for student use.
Permanently streaming would allow the public, out of town employees, and other interested parties to view meetings regardless of other factors. These meetings air live and stay on the Johnson County Schools, TN Video YouTube channel. For example, Chairman Howard Carlton mentioned a school employee tuning in to a meeting from his recent trip out West.
It seems like there is a lot of work necessary to make quality streaming a reality. According to Technology Coordinator Robert Sutherland, the board needs two new cameras with Zoom capabilities and new software, which will come to a hefty sum. Per Sutherland, each camera starts at a minimum of approximately $1,600. Current equipment works well in the physical venue but seems less equipped for online.
One new technology-related focus is email. Each student will receive an email address from the Johnson County School system. This way, students, whether attending in person or online, can communicate with teachers more easily.
According to recent reports, JCS plan to offer wifi in parking lots for students who want to attend online but do not have access at home. Students without an appropriate device can use the Chromebooks. Students in this program have ten days to decide whether to remain enrolled or switch to in-person learning.
Johnson County Schools plans to use Canvas and Google Classroom as tools to help with education district-wide. Officials also plan to make individual schools’ Facebook pages more uniform to keep parents informed. Parents will receive information through the current call-out system, Facebook, jocoed.net, and in some instances, Zoom.
Find out more information in The Tomahawk and online at jocoed.net.