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A Conversation With … Jessica Lowder

Teacher at Nixa Public Schools’ John Thomas School of Discovery

Posted online

According to the U.S. Department of Education, by 2020 computer systems analysts jobs will have increased by 22 percent from the 10 years prior, and systems software developers by 32 percent. How are schools like JTSD that specialize in science, technology, engineering and math skills preparing the future workforce?
Sixty-five percent of the jobs elementary students will have in the future haven’t even been created. We want to give them experiences and make sure those experiences are well rounded. The exposure is there. I always keep it real-world with my second graders and tell them why we are doing something and how it might come in handy in their lives. Editor’s note: The future jobs statistic is from the World Economic Forum.

Will there come a point when all schools are “magnet” schools because all students need increased technological education?
Absolutely. At JTSD, we pilot a lot of things, but then it’s sent to other elementary schools. We don’t want to just keep it here. We started a (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) university, and I think to date we’ve trained about 500 other teachers in southwest Missouri. It’s important all kids learn these skills.

Nixa High School has initiatives to get students integrated into information technology fields. How does educating elementary students in technology impact them as they prepare to enter the workforce later in life?
They’re able to problem-solve. When our kids leave in sixth grade and go to the junior high, we hear that our kids can critically think and problem solve.

Since Nixa Public Schools began the ConnectEd Initiative providing each student with their own Chromebook laptops, how do you incorporate technology training into daily life?
In second grade, they bring their Chromebooks home every night. We are teaching them digital citizenship, responsibility with the technology. We use the SAMR model. So we go through the model in substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition. It’s new for us, and I think that jobs in the future, they’re going to be going through those things.

Do you find JTSD’s immersive method of teaching is effective to retain students’ interest in technology fields?
We are constantly building that love of learning. We do Genius Hour time, modeled after Google. It’s an independent study time where they take something and want to learn about it and it’s something they’re passionate about. They go home … and come back to me next Friday and say, “I finished it at home.” That love of learning is there.

JTSD has programs for coding, right?
There are different coding apps and websites out there that we do. We also have an instructional technology facilitator [Ryan Mahn], and he really helps us teachers with integrating that technology into the classroom. He will take each student every so often and code with them. We do coding things with robots and the Big Bot Theory, which is the robotics team here. The thing is exposing them when they’re young to reading those codes and knowing what those codes are. We try to always incorporate that.

Lowder can be reached at jessicalowder@nixaschools.net.

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