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C.J. Huff: Creating new possibilities from unspeakable tragedy

On May 22, 2011, the town of Joplin, Mo., lost six schools in an EF5 tornado that killed 160 people and displaced half the student body. Joplin currently has about 3,200 students living in temporary facilities. In spite of these challenges, the district is leading the way in using technology to transform instruction under the guidance of Superintendent C.J. Huff.

Before the tornado struck, Joplin already had made a significant investment in ed tech, said Huff, a 2012 winner of the Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards from eSchool Media. Now, in rebuilding Joplin’s educational infrastructure, Huff has taken advantage of the opportunity to reinvent learning.

Joplin received $1 million from the United Arab Emirates to help it rebuild, including a $500,000 challenge grant that it used to roll out a one-to-one computing program at the district’s high school. Instead of replacing textbooks, Joplin High is using all-digital texts.

Huff recently sat down with eSchool News Editor Dennis Pierce to discuss his district’s experience and the keys to its success. One benefit to using digital textbooks is that teachers have seen a 30-percent reduction in disciplinary referrals, he said—not what you’d expect to see after such a traumatic experience for students.

Watch what Huff had to say:

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