Former Mayor Megan Barry in the spring of 2016 convened a working group to outline and coordinate Nashville’s efforts to better integrate technology with the city’s infrastructure as well as other parts of government and public life. The group’s work led to the delivery to Mayor David Briley in late April of a final community report called “Connected Nashville: A Vision for a Smarter City.” Here is an excerpt from the report’s section on smart people.
Nurturing a smart and connected community is not just about applied technology. It’s about using technology to make that 21st century education is inclusive, available to people at every stage of life, and centered on skills that are applicable to today’s tech-driven job market. It’s about embracing differences and learning from them. Fostering a society of smart people is about preparing Nashvillians to connect with a fast-paced global community in ways that are creative, meaningful and successful.
Strategy 9: Reduce the Social Isolation of Learning Communities
Nashville can enhance individual empowerment, social inclusion, economic development, cultural prosperity and sustainable development by building what UNESCO terms a “learning city.” A learning city mobilizes its resources in all sector to promote inclusive learning at all levels, revitalizes learning in families and communities, facilitates learning for and in the workplace, extends the use of modern learning technologies, enhances quality in learning and fosters a culture of lifelong learning.
Metro has worked to connect K-12 learning environments, as demonstrated by the many local partnerships with Metro Nashville Public Schools. A learning city also requires the unification of institutions providing education beyond K-12 into postsecondary, community college, university and technical training environments, and organizations operating in various sectors to reach people at all stages of life.
• Align businesses, nonprofits, colleges, civic leaders, parents, faith communities, community organizations, and resources to reduce the social isolation of Nashville learning communities to support Nashville’s educational, digital equity, and career-oriented objectives. This will positively affect the talent pipeline and the success of our community as a whole.
• Host and encourage citywide and global learning opportunities that bring diverse communities together.
• Work within the community to develop and provide an online portal that aligns businesses, nonprofits, colleges, civic leaders, parents, faith communities, and community organizations to support learning.
Strategy 10: Develop STEM, Computational Thinking, Problem Solving Skills
In March of 2017, Forbes magazine published an article titled “The Cities Creating The Most Tech Jobs 2017.” Nashville ranked number 7 out of the 16 featured cities with a whopping 75 percent growth in tech-sector jobs within a 10-year period, from 2006 to 2016. The boom in tech-related jobs requires a re-engineering of how Metro educates K-12 students in school and out of school, especially as it related to empowering female students and students from underrepresented communities (e.g. gender, race/ethnicity, immigrant/refugee communities, and differently abled) to pursue tech careers.
• Train both teachers and education-based nonprofit instructors in computational thinking and design thinking.
• Given Metro Nashville Public Schools’ focus on illiteracy, align literacy students with computer science standards to help teachers align both mandates.
• Align assessments of STEM with literacy standards to help inform instruction and alignment of district priorities.
• Map all existing in-school and out-of-school STEM, media, arts, humanities and computational thinking trainings, and opportunities for youth in Davidson County to identify location, cost, timeframe, gaps and scale.
• Build on Opportunity Now and Metro Nashville Public Schools data to track students’ STEM-related trajectories.
• Develop free summer opportunities for students K-12 to enroll in STEM, media, arts, humanities and computational thinking programs, with special emphasis on creating and scaling programming for elementary students in order to ensure that older siblings can also enroll in tech-related summer experiences.
• Create intentional tech programs that empower students from underrepresented communities and diverse language communities. Collaborate with local colleges and universities that have National Science Foundation Broadening Participation grants and TRiO (federal outreach and student services) grants to help fund tech inclusion programs for underrepresented communities.
• Increase transportation options (e.g. Strive, mobile units, etc.) for students to attend STEM, media, arts, humanities and computational thinking programs throughout the week.
• Develop opportunities for community access to data science and visualization training using Metro Government’s own data in seeking answers to questions within Nashville’s neighborhoods.
Strategy 11: Develop an Adaptabe Workforce to Meet the Changing Needs of Business
The rapid development of technology has transformed the world of business The Nashville Technology Council estimates that as of 2016, 1,600 tech jobs go unfilled annually in Middle Tennessee. Innovative and thoughtful action is required to develop the educational pathways and pipelines for the jobs of the future in Nashville. To help with this strategy, Gov. Bill Haslam has put forth an ambitious goal of having 55 percent of Tennessee residents earn a post-secondary credential by the year 2025. Metro Nashville can assist in this effort by scaling current practices and building new pipelines of workers.
• Provide opportunities for students of all ages to increase their practical and soft skills through experiences, access to tools, and support in career growth.
• Increase access to the breadth and depth of postsecondary information and the support to make that information actionable.
• Develop a cross-city university/college/trade consortium to work together to align post-secondary options and opportunities for students and nontraditional students, especially those from underrepresented communities in post-secondary programs.
• Develop cultural, civic, and commercial innovation centers around Nashville to promote commerce and engage learners of all ages in building products and solving city issues.
Strategy 12: Digital Literacy and Innovation Capacity
According to the Metro Nashville Public Schools’ BrightBytes survey produced in 2016, 16 percent of students are without a home computer, laptop or tablet while 10 percent are without home internet connectivity. The 2015 Metro Social Services Community Needs Evaluation estimated that 75,720 people in Davidson County did not have internet access. These Nashvillians, regardless of socioeconomic status, physical disability, language, race, gender or any other characteristics that have been linked with unequal treatment, need assistance to enter the digital age.
This is further complicated by digital readiness, a person’s likelihood to succeed or struggle when they use technology to navigate their environment, solve problems and make decisions, and by the digital divide, which greatly affects underrepresented communities.
• Encourage collaboration throughout Nashville by connecting existing organizations serving the community to strengthen technology adoption and digital empowerment.
• Create solutions that will be sought and shared to enable people with disabilities, seniors and those who need some form of accommodation to more easily use a computer and access the internet.
• Work with community partners to create and execute an asset and deficit mapping process of digital inclusion in the city. This may take the form of a survey, as is performed every three years in Austin, Texas.
• Develop a committee composed of Metro Nashville Public Schools tech leaders to help align in-school and out-of-school tech trainings and opportunities for MNPS students and families.
• Create enhanced digital literacy programs that go beyond the basics to develop and support program that enrich users’ experiences and enable people to move from novice to expert users, and for some to become digital innovators or professionals. Some cities are developing innovation hubs and citizen user testing groups to build solutions to social problems in the city.
• Create and develop programs providing access to affordable, available and sufficient devices and technical support. This includes partnering with local businesses on wifi access for learning, seeking mobile hotspot programs and/or affordable LTE, increasing assistive tech (to help those with different abilities) at community sites, and increasing support for device ownership programs.
• Develop trainings on Metro Government’s web portals to empower Nashville residents with information about their communities. Opportunities exist around open data and legislation, among other topics.
• Create resources to be integrated into all programs to enoucrage people to use the internet responsibly while protecting their digital privacy and security. Parents and other caregivers will be provided training and resources so that they can actively guide their children’s online activities and protect their children’s digital safety.