Voices of the Bay: Musician and Tech Guy Kyle Jackson

Warren-based online education specialist works at RIC by day and jams in two local bands by night


As manager of instructional technology and administrator of Blackboard (the LMS system faculty uses to teach online courses) at Rhode Island College (RIC), Kyle Jackson’s job is essentially to break down complex information for faculty and students to understand. It’s the same approach the self-taught guitarist uses as a member of two bands, Six Star General and Jets Can’t Land. Born and raised in Warren, Jackson earned a degree from Quinnipiac University and spent the past 20 years working in higher education technology at Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) and RIC. A champion of public education, Jackson has deep roots at the former Warren High School where he attended before regionalization and, where his late father Richard Jackson was an educator and the Athletic Director. The 1995 Mt. Hope High School graduate is a parent to a sophomore at the school and was motivated to run for the open Warren seat on the Bristol Warren School Committee in the upcoming election with a goal of bringing his online learning expertise to the district.


RAMP UP: Pre-COVID, CCRI faculty was still teaching 90 percent face to face. Blackboard was used for supplemental materials, putting up the course syllabus, and loading information into their Blackboard course for students to have access to lectures. Little by little, there were more hybrid classes and we had some fully online classes. COVID hit and turned my job upside down. There was me and two other people and we had to teach 750 faculty how to teach online in two weeks. Luckily we were a good group, and we got it done. 


NOTE BY NOTE: There's so much to learn and so many tools in the Blackboard system. I always compartmentalize it into pieces for faculty so they don't get brain fried from information overload. That's kind of what I do when we're writing songs, too. If Eric Meier (the lead singer in Jets Can’t Land) comes in with a basic song and then we create other parts, I just break it down into little pieces when I’m playing the guitar. 


ONLINE VS. IRL: The difference between a good online classroom experience and a poor one is organization. Students should be able to get to all the work with one to two clicks. Second is the engagement of students, which makes a big difference. If it's an asynchronous class [meaning students do work on their own time], whether or not it's fully online, it’s important to use engagement tools, like the faculty member being active in the discussion board with their students.  


FINDING HIS SOUND: I'm definitely more confident as a guitar player 20 something years later. I self taught myself at 21. I feel I have my own sound, which I think comes from starting out not knowing really what I was doing. You're subconsciously influenced by the music you listen to. It comes back and just drips in.


OFF HOURS: I love playing live. It's my artistic outlet that I can't do at my job. Some people play softball or golf. I just get so much happiness out of playing music. We play locally and are never going to go on tour. We all have day jobs. 


WARREN LOVE: My dad was a teacher and athletic director, so much of my childhood was hanging around Warren High School as a ball boy for the soccer team, setting up the yard markers for football games, or running the clock for wrestling. I loved it all. I feel the school committee needs change, and I'd like to be part of that change. I think my dad would be happy I am running. 


Know someone who might be a good fit for Voices of the Bay? Email Nina at YourHomeWithNina@gmail.com


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