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Beattyville - Birthplace of Kentucky River (taken by C.Beach III)

Beattyville - Birthplace of Kentucky River (taken by C.Beach III)

You’ll Find us at the Holler

You’ll Find us at the Holler

October 20, 2014 12:00 AM

PIkeville, Ky

What happens when you take a free online delivery system and create coursework designed for a specific culture and region? What if you apply that philosophy using technology to change education and access to learning in Central Appalachia? And just to make it feel like home, why not call it the “Holler.”

Designed as a social learning network for students in Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia, founder and creator Bruce Parsons said the Holler provides an accessible conversation for technology and learning and serves as a delivery tool for open coursework and other educational initiatives.

Parsons, the director of new media and an adjunct professor at the University of Pikeville (UPIKE), launched the Holler in July. Along with UPIKE, the Holler partners with the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), a co-op of educational groups serving member district schools in Eastern Kentucky, and the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative (ARI), a consortium of 17 rural school districts that share resources and professional learning opportunities.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction,” said Parsons. “In a year or so there will be an exciting new mobile app or video project that will surface on the Internet and people will share it across social networks assuming it was created by the usual suspects – Silicon Valley, New York or an emerging start-up community in Kansas or Chattanooga, but all of those will be wrong. It’s going to come from a much smaller place, a place where small town doesn’t mean a hundred thousand people and broadband Internet connection is still not guaranteed. It’s going to come from the hollers of Central Appalachia and it’s going to usher in the mindset that anyone can create anything with the right amount of hard work and opportunity.”

The Holler is divided into two sections, the social network and self-paced, regional online courses, including digital storytelling, web design, application and video game design. It will also feature courses from regional K-12 institutions that want to flip their classroom or provide advanced digital initiatives to their students. The learning management system is open and free, allowing any user to apply as an instructor, and once approved, they can create any course that may be helpful for the region.

“In this online community we have hollers, instead of user groups. Hollers might consist of documentary production, graphic design, photography or maybe a holler focused on school-produced news programs. We want to ease the path from idea conception with an accessible and open platform where all of our members are seen as developers,” said Parsons. “With everyone sharing their creative processes you’ll have numerous hollers with tech tips and new ideas. Together, we will establish one big learning collective.”

“We are proud to partner with KVEC in building a robust P-20 education system,” said UPIKE President Dr. James Hurley. “The work that Bruce Parsons has put into developing the ‘Holler’ is transformational, inspiring and another example that our students in Central Appalachia can be competitive in a global environment.”

KVEC Executive Director Jeff Hawkins said the Holler is a unique solution designed to build upon the region’s strengths and address the needs and challenges that exist.

“The Holler’s design and implementation plan operates from a theory of abundance rather than scarcity. In enables everyone with an interest in education and community improvement to serve as a developer of the site to ensure that it provides the greatest opportunities for our region to excel in our efforts to be ‘future ready,’” said Hawkins. “The Holler is transforming the way our region learns, earns and communicates. It is the social learning network for Central Appalachia and is fast becoming a model for other rural regions of the country.”

Located on the UPIKE campus, the Holler studio allows for high quality production of video programs and podcasts, as well as multimedia centered on instructional design and education. “The ARI program has provided us with all of the equipment and support needed to create any type of media or gaming experience we can imagine,” said Parsons. “If we want the young people of Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia to create media like it is second nature, we have to lead by example. We are writing code, building apps, teaching calculus and streaming video games through We’re not choosing one thing; we’re working to expose the region to all the avenues technology has to offer. By doing this, we’ll help move the region from consumers of tech, to a user base that sees technology as a tool for creation.”

Users of have already begun creating original programming on the social network to strengthen the technology discussion in the region. UPIKE student Klay Maggard’s show, Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), is all about technology, including tech reviews and how-to videos for building your own personal computer and more. Here There Be Monsters (HBTM) is a new video show and podcast dedicated to gaming, both as game consumers and video game creators. UPIKE student Ryan Wilson has created Film for All, a weekly podcast about analyzing and creating film and television. More shows are coming soon, including a sports show by UPIKE Sports Information Director Dan White, where student-athletes and coaches talk about everything except sports. The Hollercast will be a podcast dedicated to education and storytelling in the region.

The Holler studio will also provide a place for regional teachers, K-12 level and beyond, to produce and record instructional videos and multimedia of the highest production level to supplement the learning management side of the Holler and improve digital learning initiatives in their schools. The first of these will begin recording in the coming weeks featuring calculus lessons from Jenkins Independent High School.

Since its debut, the Holler has more than 500 active users and 50,000 page views from students, teachers, artists, writers, filmmakers and innovative thinkers who Parsons says are interested in advancing education and Appalachia through technology.

“My goal is that this website,, will be a catalyst for disrupting and affecting systemic change in Central Appalachia. Forward thinking organizations like UPIKE, KVEC and SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) are coming together with new energy and new ideas. This time, we’re not looking for a path, we’re going to create one.”

URLs for more information:
The Holler Podcasts/Videos:

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