Preparing Students for a Digital World - Horizon Academy

Preparing Students for a Digital World

Jan 02, 2018

Written by Mr. Hayes, Technology Specialist
At Horizon, we strive to help our students achieve their best. As a school for students with learning disabilities, this means we use many new systems and creative methods to individualize the learning process. We also work hard to ensure our kids are able to expand their knowledge into studies that are exciting and modern. Our school tackles this in a number of ways, from science and technology classes, utilizing 1:1 iPad programs, constantly evolving our tech footprint, and a series of IT assistance programs for student helpers to participate in. We feel that we are not just teaching kids the fundamentals of a curriculum, we are opening our students’ minds to new possibilities in an ever changing digital world.   One of the most visible ways we prepare our students to use and understand modern technology is through class time. We currently serve a few different classes, specifically Technology, Keyboarding, Kerbal Space Program, and Coding.     In Technology class, Mr. McConnell introduces students to the apps on their iPads for organization, making presentations, and independent learning. They use the notes, calendar, and clock apps as organizational tools. The students make posters, graphs and essays in pages, movies and trailers in iMovie, and slideshows in Keynote. He also shows them tools for independent learning like Reading Ally, Khan Academy, Brainpop, and Duolingo. During the second half of the semester they talk about media literacy and online safety. Online safety includes lessons about online bullying, scams, and fake news. Media literacy covers identifying ads and sponsored content as well identifying biases in media.   Keyboarding classes are overseen by Mrs. Thomas and use the iPad and a separate bluetooth keyboard to teach no-look skills and typing etiquette to elementary and middle-schoolers. Kerbal Space Program is a course taught by SoPro Gaming to all ages and is our newest class, providing a hard math based platform to enjoyably learn scientific principles in a goal-oriented space exploration game.   Lastly, Coding looks to teach basic elements of web and mobile languages to students with applications that are designed to help creative expression. I teach coding to a group of 7 kids in high school. Now, I am not a teacher by trade, but a technician who deploys computers, sets up networks, manages security, and sometimes builds software to handle tasks. This is my second coding course as an instructor, and I’ve learned a great deal about teaching when working with my students. Each student brings something new to the table, whether it is previous knowledge from their own self study or new ways of understanding elements of computer literacy. It is very rewarding and keeps me on my toes with each new group of students.   Coding class starts off with Swift Playgrounds, an app developed by Apple to teach computer literacy and concepts to students. We also spend a small amount of time on the history of computing technology focusing on the pioneers of computational programming and mathematics. The course includes lessons in HTML, CSS, Javascript, SQL, a small dash of Python, and Swift over the course of the semester. The skills learned are presented in the final project which utilizes Twine, a storytelling game engine that allows the students to write a creative story and program elements of it to make it into an interactive game, with visuals, options, variables to interact with and store, and much more. The imagination of the student propels them, and the lessons in coding allow them to animate the design of the game to lead their peers through an immersive storytelling experience.   As technology advances and the demands of a modern workforce evolve to require more tech-literate workers, classes like these are more necessary and important to prepare our students. Our teachers work diligently to create a modern platform of success with technology that reinforces their existing knowledge as well as current platforms and trends. The students not only gain greater knowledge and experience from the courses, but are also exposed to the systems that make up their favorite apps and websites while getting the chance to identify the code used and deconstruct it. With enough work and a bit of curiosity, the opportunities for our students are endless!