1. Florida

Florida needs to refocus its approach to digital classrooms, Board of Education member says

Florida Board of Education vice chairman John Padget has not hidden his enthusiasm for giving school children more access to classroom technology and the classes that support it.

During a board meeting Wednesday, Padget called upon the Department of Education to revise its approach to digital classrooms, for which leaders have requested $20 million more in state funding.

The approach should break down into three categories, he suggested. First, there's the hardware needs that have been talked about for years. Next would come the infusion of technology into lessons.

"The time has come for category 3, coding and programming to create the programs we are going to need," Padget said. "That is where we are behind."

He noted that of 360,000 juniors and seniors in Florida high schools, just 925 passed an AP computer science exam last year. Meanwhile, Florida has more than 22,000 open computer science jobs.

There's not a direct pipeline from class to workplace, he acknowledged. But the state can encourage the move in that direction, Padget said, by supporting incentives for industry certificate programs in such disciplines, as well as teacher training for the areas.

"We've got a lot of work to do, but we've got a lot of tools," Padget said.

Other board members supported the concept. Member John Colon, for one, noted a Wall Street Journal report that Japanese schools are refocusing on such innovation.

"This is something that is very critical here in Florida," Colon said. "I agree 100 percent with Mr. Padget."

The board did not act, but expected to discuss the issue further in the future.