East Region Association of Technology Coordinators (ERATC) President, Neil Arnett introduces The Center’s Broadband Implementation Manager, Larry Combs at the recent ERATC conference, where Combs discussed The Center’s Technology Assistance Program (TAP) grant funding.
The Center for Rural Development recently co-sponsored a technology event in conjunction with the East Region Association of Technology Coordinators (ERATC). June 2019 marked the 26th year of the ERATC conference.
The annual summer retreat brings together Technology Coordinators, school technology staff, and digital learning coaches from fifteen school districts in Southeast Kentucky to focus on enhancing the integration of technology into the educational process. Collectively these professionals encompass decades of experience in education technology and support 32,000 students and 2,400 educators with more than 43,000 internet connected devices.
The conference provides a block of time after the end of the school year for technology leaders to network and plan for the upcoming school year. The event also offers participants the opportunity to network with ERATC vendor partners that support K12 with the latest technology.
ERATC’s initiative involves empowering schools and communities to become active in the educational process, as well as preparing them for a changing economy, workforce and digital world. “We feel student access is of vital importance as more educational opportunities move online,” said Larry Combs, Broadband Implementation Manager at The Center.
During the ERATC conference, Combs shared information about The Center for Rural Development’s Technology Assistance Program (TAP). “TAP provides grant funding to help your communities begin asset mapping, perform feasibility studies, and conduct pre-engineering analysis of community fiber projects or other activities,” explained Combs.
The TAP initiative is funded by grant KY-18984-17 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and is administered by The Center for Rural Development. All of the school districts who participated in the event are located within what are considered to be distressed or at-risk counties by ARC, and would therefore be eligible to apply for TAP funding. Districts that make up ERATC include Leslie County, Perry County, Hazard Ind., Letcher County, Knott County, Floyd County, Pike County, Pikeville Ind., Lee County, Breathitt County, Jackson Ind., Jenkins Ind., Magoffin County, Wolfe County, and Owsley County.
ERATC engages with communities and local governments to help guide and implement technology within their region. Focus areas include ensuring the continuous professional development of content and supporting the development and implementation of a rigorous curriculum. In addition, ERATC helps teachers integrate technology into their instructional practice and promotes team work and partnering at the administrative, teacher, parent and student levels.
This year’s ERATC conference added a new STEAM Playground Challenge. “Our leaders are exploring new items that can be used in schools to incorporate coding and making, and we are also taking the opportunity to build “soft skills” such as computational & algorithmic thinking, team work, & growth mindset,” said Neil Arnett, ERATC President. Several sessions covered a range of topics from STEAM incorporation, digital workflows, data & network security, instructional tools and robotics.
This event is one example of many exciting things happening in the region that directly relate to The Center’s mission to provide leadership that stimulates innovative and sustainable economic development solutions and a better way of life for the citizens we serve. “We love to come to The Center for Rural Development, it is an amazing facility and such a beautiful city. Thank you so much for the support of The Center and having us here,” Arnett added.