Rural Matters is a bi-weekly, 30-minute podcast about rural education, business, and health. The podcast’s mission is to increase awareness, inform discussion, and expand the dialogue on the most important issues facing rural stakeholders every day. Guests on the podcast include rural education decision-makers, rural business owners and entrepreneurs, and rural health care representatives. The National Rural Education Association and the Center for Rural Affairs are marketing partners.John chats with Lydia Dobyns, president and CEO of New Tech Network, which has about 200 K-12 schools in 28 states, and Matthew Swenson, assistant principal at Cross County (New Tech) High School in Cherry Valley, Arkansas. New Tech Network’s mission to reimagine schools using four basic pillars that apply in their two models, one for elementary, and for the secondary level: culture that empowers students; project-based learning; embedded use of technology, and schoolwide learning outcomes, both academic and non-academic.Swenson works in a rural town (population 650) in the Mississippi Delta, with about 600 students in the district, which was on a state low-performing list. His students, Swenson says, need 21st Century skills, which New Tech provides. The New Tech model is meant to be applied by the community, using virtual and on-site experience, for the specific economic and other needs of the local community, notes Dobyns. In Cherry Valley, the school is the hub of the community.New Tech implements its program by building a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by teachers, administrators, parents, local business leaders, in terms of culture issues. For example, the school and the network established a Virtual Internship, in which the student and a professional “build something together.” Graduating students now have a plan for what they’ll be doing after high school, Swenson notes. Here’s a link to a must-see New Tech Network video: Turning Point South Carolina.
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