Florida Community College Earns World Innovation Honor

Tallahassee Community College has earned international recognition for its Digital Rail outreach program, a fully-equipped mobile unit that brings technology training to Tallahassee's impoverished school neighborhoods.

Byron Dobson, The Florida Times-Union / February 4, 2020
Students explore STEM technology in TCC's Digital Rail trailer at last fall's Tallahassee Science Fest. [Photo: Tallahassee Community College] TNS

(TNS) — Tallahassee Community College has earned international recognition for its Digital Rail outreach program, a fully-equipped mobile unit that brings technology training to Tallahassee's impoverished school neighborhoods.

TCC was one of only two institutions from the United States making the 16-member list published during the World Economic Forum (WEF) held Jan. 21-24 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

The college shares the U.S. distinction with Prospect Charter School in New York, NY.

The WEF's "Schools of the Future: Defining New Models of Education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution" report was issued in Geneva, Switzerland just before its 2020 annual meeting.

The international gathering attracts more than 3,000 global leaders from politics, government, civil society, academia, the arts and culture as well as the media.

The Schools of the Future report outlines a framework to define quality education in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Education 4.0 – and shares key features from innovative education models, the college said in a release.

WEF is launching the Education 4.0 initiative to mobilize collaborations to accelerate the scaling up of best practices such as TCC's Digital Rail and enable system-level transformation in education.

"It is an honor for Tallahassee Community College to be recognized on a global level as a school of the future by the World Economic Forum," TCC President Jim Murdaugh said. "The TCC Digital Rail makes learning accessible and inclusive to all students, including those in underserved areas.

"This project demonstrates TCC's forward thinking commitment to teaching and learning beyond traditional classroom walls."

The Digital Rail project was initiated in November 2017 by Stephen Dunnivant, dean of Business, Industry and Technology when he was awarded a TCC Foundation Innovation Grant.

Dunnivant recently left TCC to become president for the A. Hugh Adams Central Campus, and vice provost for teaching excellence and learning, at Broward College.

The TCC Digital Rail is a 26-foot mobile unit equipped with the latest technologies, including robotics, 3D printing and virtual reality. Faculty and staff use it to teach children skills in graphic design, digital media, computer programming, web development, cybersecurity, engineering technology and business and entrepreneurship.

Children receive digital skills passports, which allow them to connect the skills learned in any given lesson with future careers.

Last year, it reached over 2,500 students. Stops included visits with The STEMS4GIRLS Lights On Afterschool program at the Boys & Girls Club, the TCC Stem Summit, Griffin Middle School and Tallahassee Science Festival.

TCC entered the Digital Rail through an online application in response to the World Economic Forum's open request to schools that have introduced innovative approaches to bringing future work skill training to students.

Three elements of TCC's approach in bringing future workforce skills to the community stood out:

— TCC's collaboration with the Business Industry Leadership Team: Made up of TCC deans and local business leaders, it ensures alignment between the program's course offerings and careers that will be relevant in the future. The Digital Rail Project was an example of public-private collaboration.

— A skills-based approach: The use of skills passports allows learners to draw direct connections between their learning and future careers, which helps ground learning in real-world application.

— Accessibility: The mobile learning model could be replicated in many other skill-training initiatives.

Funding to create the TCC Digital Rail was provided by the TCC Foundation. Local companies donating to the project included Full Press Apparel and Visual Solutions.

Tracey Shrine, an owner of Full Press Apparel, said in 2017 the unit could be valuable in exposing students to technical skills that would benefit her company and other Tallahassee business.

"We find it difficult to hire for jobs in graphic arts and design, and when talking to other business owners, they echoed the same sentiment," Shrine said, as the company contributed $10,000 toward the project.

"We wanted to help get this project off the ground so that we are helping students learn valuable skills that make them employable as quickly as possible once they leave TCC."

©2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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