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Rural Alabama District Goes Digital

March 09, 2016

The small town of Piedmont, Alabama, doesn’t look like a hub of technology – nestled in the Appalachian foothills, it has a population of 5,000 and just three traffic lights. But every student in Piedmont city schools has a personal MacBook from grades 4 through 12, not to mention free internet at home and access to brand-new school media labs. All this technology is the handiwork of Superintendent Matt Akin, who has taken the town from typical rural district to edtech pioneer and is seeing powerful results.

Akin has led the Piedmont school district since 2003 and overseen many of its biggest digital developments, including the 1:1 laptop and Wi-Fi initiatives. Thanks to his efforts, the school district has seen four times more students enroll in AP courses than they did before the tech programs began. Not only that, but more and more Piedmont graduates are enrolling in college, and Akin plans to keep tabs on them to make sure they succeed there too.

The district’s digital push has had a big impact for students like Samantha Smith, a senior at Piedmont High School who said that having tech at her fingertips “made learning a lot easier.” As she prepares to head off to college, Smith says she feels more confident and better prepared for independent learning thanks to her experience with technology. And that’s just what Akin is hoping for. His goal is to use tech as a way to prepare his students for life after high school, and to provide an education that will empower them to give back to the community.