Tech MS students get digital curriculum
School urges pupils to play computer games
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By Natalie Gray  September 20, 2013 12:00 am

Students at Technology Middle School are encouraged to bring their cell phones to class. In fact, Principal Amy Goodwin said they can bring any electronic device they wish, of course with the catch that those devices are used with their teacher’s permission and with the condition those devices will only be used to further their studying and class work.

“We want to teach our kids to be digitally responsible and how to be safe in the cyber world,” said Goodwin.

Technology Middle School opened this last August at the campus formally known to be the home of Mountain Shadows Middle School. Currently, the school includes only sixth and seventh grade classes, calculating 330 students in total enrollment. There are 16 teachers and, according to Goodwin, the school fully plans on growing to include eighth grade by next year. With only a few weeks open and moving as a fully functioning school, the middle school seems to be a truly unique breed, and the school, students and staff all seem quite proud of that fact.

“It’s really exciting starting a new school,” said Goodwin. “Everyone here wants to be here.”

Goodwin explained that there was no transferring of teachers or rezoning of students that forced anyone to work or attend Technology Middle School. All the students are at the school because they (or their parents) want to be there, having been drawn by the unique programs and goals of the school.

As the school’s title would suggest, Technology Middle School is, in fact, focused on teaching its students to be technology savvy in an ever-advancing digital world.

To start these efforts, the school has a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy that teachers, faculty and students all seem firm in upholding. This policy includes the acceptance of digital devices such as smartphones, tablet computers, iPods touches, laptops and, of course, the chromebooks. 

The chromebooks are where Technology gets really interesting. Not only does the school encourage the use of these small, laptop-like devices but distributes them to its students for a fee of $329 that includes a year of insurance and a customization of its student-owner’s name. Students are not made to purchase the chromebook if they desire not to, but it is hard to overlook the benefit of having one while attending this school.

Students are often assigned digital homework, such as writing blog entries instead of writing papers.  The school and its chromebooks are connected Google Cloud, where students can connect to access homework and class work, both from their classrooms and their homes.

“We’re trying to go paperless,” said Goodwin.

She added that the school does in fact still use books and some paper work, but they are striving to teach their students to be more environmental and digitally aware.

Technology Middle School functions on a trimester system and prides itself on its academic learning system Projected Based Learning system. The latter is a program designed to have students learn while they are working on subject-based projects.

An example of this is seen in the elective course Technology Enrichment Classes, where students are actually made to play computer-based video games. The idea behind playing the games is that students will notice and understand how games work, their plots, their movements and their workings.

Once the students have reached a certain level in their game, they will be made to design their own computer game. When they are done, they will upload their game online, where other students around the nation can play the game. The project promotes and teaches graphic design, the workings of the cyber world and group interaction.

For other elective courses, the school also offers Spanish, leadership, digital publishing, art, music technology and band classes. With the exception of band, the elective classes work on a rotation with the goal that each student will participate in every elective.

As Goodwin said multiple times, the process of opening a new school is very exciting. She was principal at La Fiesta Elementary School when the school closed and said the pain of closing a school is something that one never really gets over.

“It’s like a death,” she said. She explained that it is much better and refreshing to have a hand in the opposite and help open a new school.

Two weeks ago, the school had its first ever girls’ basketball game and last Tuesday, their first girls’ basketball home game. All furniture in the school is brand new and designed to inspire interactive learning. The school plans to create a robotic team soon, where students can create, build and compete. 

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