I have attended many conferences in the past two decades about creating a more diverse economy in Eastern Kentucky to replace the long-anticipated collapse of the region’s coal-mining industry.
Most of those gatherings reminded me of that old joke about the weather: “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.”
Fortunately, things are changing. That was evident in the presentations Friday that attracted more than 200 people to Hazard Community and Technical College called Big Ideas Fest for Appalachia: Visionary Thinking and Doing.
The best parts of the conference were the reports from students and teachers about how they are learning new technology — from middle school kids building computers at home with help from online videos to Morehead State University students building tiny satellites for NASA space missions.
I was especially impressed with the students and their teachers who spoke about how popular technology education is becoming in middle and high schools.
TheHoller.org, an online social learning network, is enabling young people and their teachers throughout Central Appalachia’s distant “hollers” to share ideas, learn about new technology and see what each other are doing with it.
“They want to go to college and learn more about computer science,” teacher Stephanie Younger said. “They want to go into these industries, and they want these industries to come here.”
The conference was organized by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative, a consortium of 17 school districts in the region that have gotten together to share resources and learning opportunity…
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