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EMPLOYEE HIGHLIGHT: Don Bacon Provides Innovative Programming for Louisville Educators

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Louisville Future of Work Initiative’s Director of Education Don Bacon says he was never shown how someone like him could get a job in technology. As the organization’s director of education, his goal is to open the door to technology jobs in Louisville for underrepresented groups starting with our youth.

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Don Bacon, Director of Education, Louisville Future of Work Initiative

“It is important for students to see role modes of color working in tech,” said Bacon. “We need not only to introduce students to people in the field but to make it common place practice for every student to learn these skills.”

Along with his efforts at the Louisville Future of Work Initiative, Don serves as the Digital Innovation Leader for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). He is also a doctoral student at the University of Louisville for which he is working on a dissertation about what influences underrepresented groups to get into STEM fields. Prior to taking on these roles, Don spent 13 years as a teacher, with half of that time teaching high school engineering technology and computer science.

Bacon explained that the speed at which technology constantly changes makes it incredibly challenging for the education system to keep up. “Only a few years ago, we would encourage students to have a basic familiarity with how to use software such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. Today, students also need a working proficiency and understanding of tech at a higher level. For educators, it is difficult to find things that are a good fit for everyone and focus on the specializations that each student needs.”

As of the last two years, every JCPS student has a Chrome book, but Bacon acknowledges that the technology is not being leveraged to its fullest. “We need to empower teachers with knowledge and skills that will enable them to better implement technology in their classrooms.”

Covid has added an extra layer of challenge for educators especially at the elementary school level. While students were at home, teachers found it especially difficult to require students to sit in front of a computer for an extended period of time and not to be able to physically show them what to do in person if a student got off track. Now that kids are back in school, the students have a wide range of ability levels adding yet another layer of challenge to the educator’s day.

The Future of Work Initiative has a number of programs that they are offering classrooms including workshops on artificial intelligence and machine learning. While these programs are free and include support, it is up to the teacher to register for the programs.

In order to further support the educators, Bacon has been working on several initiatives that will help teachers to integrate data science into their existing curriculum.

“This past year, I was grateful for the opportunity to work with leaders at Central High School as well as at Simmons College of Kentucky, Louisville’s Historically Black College and University,” Bacon said. “This will empower their teachers and give students real-world knowledge that can be used in today’s gig economy.”

Bacon will be teaching a Data Analytics Course in which JCPS teachers will learn how to incorporate data analytics into any content area while earning $500. The program is funded by Jefferson County Public Schools and Louisville Future of Work Initiative.

“I am really excited about teaching the Data Analytics Course,” said Bacon. “My goal is for participants to be able to use the information in their classrooms right away. This is how data science is going to make its way into schools.”

He continued, “Teachers who go through the course will gain an understanding of how to use data to better understand the world around us. For instance, teachers will analyze their own teaching by collecting data on their practices like grading habits or reactions to classroom disruptions. They will use that data to evaluate their pedagogy and decide what actions, if any, would be appropriate to change their work. When to use mean, medium, different sample size, what you can say about one group or another.”

Alisia McClain, Executive Director of the Louisville Future of Work Initiative said, “We are so grateful to have Don on our team. He brings tremendous pedagogical expertise but is always open to learning more! His background in STEM and, as importantly, social studies, aligns directly with the nexus of our work: the intersection of workforce development, data science, and social progress."

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