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Granite Bay students: future Apple CEOs?

Teenagers learn how to use technology, and consider their impacts on society
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a three-part weekly series focused on changing technology in the classroom. The next article will explore how teachers at a local middle school use technological upgrades to better educate students. ---------- In one corner, a group of designers develop an iPhone application. In another area of the large room filled with computers, wires and equipment, programmers devise an “artificial life” video game. Another group fields requests for computer fixes, while a fourth group manages technology training. Boss Zachary Weidkamp, in a white button-up shirt and tie, observes as the 25 or so people busy themselves at their computer stations. At some point within the next few months, his staff will use Intel Corporation’s 360-degree feedback system — employed by many major companies — to self-review their performance, and solicit peer and manager evaluations. But this is not a major company. This is just another day in a 4th period class on the campus of Granite Bay High School. Class more like a business This course, called Granite Bay information technology, or GBiT, helps prepare students for a competitive future in the workforce. GBiT runs concurrently with another class called information technology in a global society, which addresses the impacts of computers, the Internet and wireless communications on society. Through the latter course, students can earn an International Baccalaureate (IB) career certificate. The IB program started in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland to offer sophisticated, broad-based curriculum for 11th and 12th grade students. The local high school offers 11 IB courses, including information technology in a global society, taught by Weidkamp. He says Granite Bay High School is one of only about 15 schools in the world to pilot this technology and humanities-geared career certificate program. Schools in Finland, Dubai and Australia offer similar courses. “It’s a really big thing for our district to participate in something so huge, and a cutting-edge class like this,” Weidkamp says. Meanwhile, the project-oriented GBiT course runs like a business with students acting as employees and Weidkamp as the boss. They even refer to GBiT as an “organization” rather than a “class.” Oakmont High School in Roseville has a similar tech-support course called Viking information technology, or ViTech. At Woodcreek High School, students can apply to work as computer technicians for a period to fix computers, troubleshoot, set up hardware and load software. To be accepted into GBiT, interested teenagers must apply and interview. The 25 students currently enrolled include only a handful of young women. Seven students in GBiT are also in information technology for a global society. In addition to serving on one of four teams — iPhone programming, technology repair, website design and management and development — each student must prepare a technical service for a client, which might be a teacher or member of the local business community. Senior Erik House is making an informational video for a Boy Scouts troop. The aspiring cinematographer also sells advertising for the school’s website. “I’ve raised $1,000 in the last two weeks,” House says. Justin Toms, a senior, manages the technology repair team whose primary function is to install software and fix computers on campus. In another corner of the room, junior Nick Badal sits with his team as they create a video game. “It’s a strategy game,” Badal says. “You play a higher power and control your citizens and how a city develops ... There are aspects that other games on the market don’t have.” His group hopes to find a real-world buyer for the game once it’s finished. Meanwhile, three other students prepare an iPhone application that mimics Granite Bay High School’s website. These students are learning how to do this “on the fly,” Weidkamp said. They found out what they need, wrote plans, got approval from the administration and are now developing the software. Discussing ethical issues But for all the hands-on exercises in GBiT, the information technology in a global society class covers another crucial element of a technological education — ethical concerns, benefits and consequences. “We talk about anything that has to do with people and technology and how they interact,” Weidkamp said. Students discuss information security, such as copyright laws, hacking, viruses and privacy. They talk about texting while driving, robotics and artificial intelligence, and technology applications in business, education, health, science and arts. The teenagers considered the role Wikileaks’ release of American diplomatic cables played in Tunisia’s revolution. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali blocked Wikileaks because “it talked bad about him and exposed his dictatorship,” said junior Mehdi Razouane. An Internet hacking group called Anonymous responded with distributed denial-of-service attacks to disable government websites, he said. “We discuss how, yes — hacking is an obvious, apparent strength in the tech world and it’s a problem,” Razouane said. “But it ultimately brings security innovations and a way to improve security technology as a whole.” President Ben Ali has since been ousted from power and fled the country. Junior Chris Mangiola said the class talked about problems associated with posting personal — and potentially compromising — photographs online. Another time, students discussed Nintendo’s new 3DS game console. The Japanese company posted a safety alert on its website that the 3D screen on the handheld device may damage the eyesight of children under the age of 6 and can cause eye fatigue for users of all ages. Yet, Nintendo continues to sell the game. As Razouane explains, technology no matter how “advanced” isn’t always foolproof, ultimately dependent on the people — young and old — who develop these applications and products and spread them around the world. “We’re human,” Razouane said. “And machines (are only) as good as what we put in it.” Which is why classes such as those at Granite Bay High School attempt to educate a new generation of technology creators and users to be innovative and responsible. Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Snapshot of some technology related courses at local high schools Roseville High School: · Art and animation (off campus at Lincoln High School) · Web 2.0 and open source productivity tools (online) · Computer studies (off campus at Rocklin High School) Woodcreek High School: · Multimedia · Web design · 3D animation · Computer applications Oakmont High School: · Web design · Computer applications · Graphic design · Media production · 3D modeling and animation Granite Bay High School: · Web design · Computer repair · 3D animation · Information technology in a global society · Television and sound studio production