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Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Bill could mean more tablets, tech in Florida schools

TAMPA – A proposed bill filed in the Florida Senate Thursday calls for Florida schools to receive more funding for technology and digital learning initiatives.

That would mean more items like tablets and computers, more professional development for teachers and more opportunities for K-12 students to take classes in subjects like computer programming.

Senate Bill 790 – filed Thursday afternoon by Senate education committee Chairman John Legg – also calls for school boards to submit digital plans to the state at least once a year. The Florida Department of Education would set a framework.

Joined by Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, Legg introduced the bill this morning at his charter school, Dayspring Academy Middle School in Port Richey, where they visited several “digital classrooms.” This school year, every student at Dayspring was issued an iPad, in lieu of textbooks and notebooks.

Algebra students sat in a computer lab and were able to rewind, fast-forward or pause a teacher on their screens. Students in a science class down the hall inspected cells on their iPads.

“This is simply a glimpse of what could be done in schools,” Legg said. “We’re able to be an experiment of what it could be like.”

The digital learning push stems from a need for students to leave high school equipped with the skills they need to start a successful career in the digital age.

“To be competitive as a state and as a country, we have to make sure our students understand technology,” Weatherford said. “We have a lot of Title I schools. To me, we should target our efforts in those schools.”

The bill calls for the creation of a new Florida digital classroom allocation, out of which school districts would receive a minimum of $100,000 each, once their digital classroom plans are approved by the state.

Funding for each district would be calculated by multiplying 1 percent of the base student allocation by the total K-12 full-time equivalent. That would be more than $100 million statewide and $7.4 million for Hillsborough County.

Legg said one of the most important pieces of the bill is training for teachers on how to use technology in their classrooms.

“To give kids and teachers iPads is the biggest waste of money until you have professional development,” he said.

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Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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