Home » No. 5: Today's students grasp and run with the technology

No. 5: Today's students grasp and run with the technology

ts full title is "Information Technology, Research and Development," and it is a course in the curriculum at our high school. Standing alone outside any department, it is a true child of "Schooling in the 2000s." This is its second year as a class at Housatonic, and there are currently 13 students enrolled.

It began as an idea that came out of Litchfield’s Education Connection, our regional education resource center, and that spread to the state level. Now the Center for 21st Century Skills at Education Connection, in collaboration with Connecticut Career Choices and the Connecticut College of Technology, sponsors something called the Connecticut Innovation Academy. A program of the Connecticut State Department of Education, it is designed to develop student academic and 21st-century skills through participation in the Governor’s High School Innovation Challenge.

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And blah, blah, blah. It all comes down to the fact that our students, and those in similar classes in some 30 schools around the state, are issued a challenge at the beginning of the school year. Last year they were challenged to create an interactive Web site that would solve a community problem — and it had to be innovative.

What emerged from a school year of student work was a local reference site for information on affordable and alternative energy sources. You could go there to find out, for example, where to find the lowest gas prices in the Northwest Corner. At the year-end Expo in Hartford, the HVRHS class won the award for Outstanding Creativity.

This year the challenge is to "develop a computer-based learning game that teaches middle school students about a specific science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) concept and related careers." The students are engaged in such activities as researching data on middle school students, designing a logo, designing an advertisement, arranging for background music, refining and animating characters, guaranteeing that elements of algebra, biology, chemistry, engineering and physics are adhered to in the game, and keeping track of project development.

In addition to their work in the classroom in Falls Village, they travel periodically to IBM in Southbury, where they present what they have accomplished so far to peers from other schools and they listen to presentations by IBM professionals. One such this year was the head attorney for intellectual properties and another was an internet pioneer.

Another feature of the program is that schools are partnered, and the students interact on the Internet. Housy’s partner is Pathways High School in Hartford. Picture a student from Lakeville and a student from Hartford putting their heads together to solve a technical problem. Pretty good stuff.

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It all comes to a climax at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford next May 10. At this year’s Expo, awards will be presented in these categories: Team Players, Team Leaders, Outstanding Business Case, Outstanding Creativity, Outstanding Multimedia, Outstanding Web Design, Outstanding Oral Presentation, Outstanding Exhibition, Outstanding Student Portfolio, Judge’s Choice Award and Student’s Choice Award. The teams make their presentations not only in front of the other teams but before a panel of judges, professionals from the tech industries. Go, Housatonic!


Jack Mahoney was a high school teacher for 21 years and a high school principal for 12 years. He is an education consultant who has made a study of schooling in the United States.


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