NCET explores business and technology.
By Andy Jorgensen
At its annual conference, the State Educational Technology Director’s Association honored a group of students from Central Los Angeles for their work integrating technology with their service-learning projects to explore community rights. Students of the Math, Science & Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School captured attendees as they illustrated how deeper learning with access to technology improves lives and society.
A room full of state education leaders representing about 40 states were rapt as students Luis Gonzales, Sara Jaime, Kimberly Ortega, and Erendira Palma explained how they noticed that there seemed to be declining numbers of locally-owned businesses in their neighborhoods and sought to understand how that affected the prosperity of its inhabitants.
The high school students used the mapping technology software ArcGIS to create data-driven research to examine how gentrification, affordable housing and characterization of public schools are shaping their community. Students not only researched, but also designed workshops to educate their peers, teachers and the school community.
The project was developed with innovative direction from English teacher Alice Im and social science teacher Mariana Ramirez – who had just minimal training in the mapping software. The students found a data set from 2009, collected their own data for 2014, visualized the data as heat maps, and compared the two. Seeing pockets of stark decline that confirmed what they had observed, they went about understanding the effects of capital extraction and gentrification on their neighborhoods.
Their analysis found declining local ownership led to falling income and rising housing costs. Upon learning of this process at work around them, they were driven to start an awareness and activism campaign to impress upon their neighbors the collective benefits of supporting and creating locally owned enterprises.
Erendira Palma put it like this, “We are educated so we can no longer remain silent.”
These students were juniors when they developed and carried out their research. Just a few years prior, they were struggling middle school students and English Language Learners. Now each of them has a college and a couple of majors chosen with solid ideas about what kind of work they will do after college. Most will be the first in their families to attend college.
It was quite moving to listen to these confident, articulate students explain their work and get a palpable sense of how engaged the work made them feel. This is an example of what is possible when we put students in charge of their own learning and a hold a conviction that all students can learn. The benefits for their opportunities in life, as well as the economic health of their community are innumerable.
The students remarked that they did not need textbooks or worksheets in their four years of high school because their teachers used primary sources and real-world materials. If we did more education like this, we wouldn’t have to wonder whether our kids are prepared to face the world. Instead, we will have to ask, “is the world ready for these students?”
Andy Jorgensen is Program Director for Nevada Ready 21 at the Nevada Department of Education and NCET’s VP of Creative Services. This column first appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal – RGJ.com