Local Businesses Create Digital Harmony in Tallahassee
In 2007, Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum brought several businesses and organizations together to establish the Digital Harmony Program. Today, with the help of the school system and members of the Tallahassee business community, the program is scaling new heights.
Local Businesses Create Digital Harmony in Tallahassee By Daniel Mutter
In 2007, Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum brought several businesses and organizations together to establish the Digital Harmony Program. The goal: to promote computer literacy among students attending the city’s Frank Nims Middle School. Today, with the help of the school system and members of the Tallahassee business community, the program is scaling new heights.
To boost student learning and familiarity with computers in what was then an "F"-rated school, the Digital Harmony Program provided free computers to all incoming Nims sixth-graders. Dell Computers contributed 100 new computers to the program, as well as offering an additional 100 at a 50-percent discount.
Along with the computers came software developed by Don DeLoach, the city of Tallahassee’s chief information systems officer, and his staff, with help from other local organizations.
Other businesses and nonprofit organizations, including Comcast and the TalTech Alliance, also helped launch the program, while educational partners Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College took on major roles.
By the end of the program’s first year, it was clear that Digital Harmony had made an impact.
"We went from an ‘F’ school to 14 points (away) from a ‘B’ in the first year of the program," says Christopher Small, academic coach and school coordinator of Digital Harmony. "This past year we went down in testing scores, but in terms of the usefulness of the program, we were able to see a definite improvement."
Comcast and other companies have continued to provide full Internet service at no cost to the families of those students enrolled in the program. FSU has provided continued help-desk support to students and their families, as well as free maintenance on computers. And TCC has developed classes to help teach students’ parents how to use the computers, an important element that provides encouragement for the students.
Digital Harmony now faces its most challenging year as Nims contends with a larger incoming sixth-grade class due to the recent closing of another Tallahassee middle school. Leadership of the program also has changed this year, with Go Beyond Foundation now in charge. The foundation is an offshoot of Go Beyond, a leader in maternal health-care information technology and a member of the nonprofit TalTech Alliance (taltech.org).
"We are all working really hard to get more people interested," says Alan Stand, CEO of Go Beyond and founder of Go Beyond Foundation, who is working to get another 150 computers donated by early October. "I think the future of public education advancement will be from the business community since we aren’t getting it from grants or taxpayers’ dollars. The future of Digital Harmony, quite frankly, is in the businesses."