Tech Futures at West Contra Costa Unified School District

ITA Tech futures banner

I think of myself as an East Bay person. While I work in San Francisco, I’ve never lived there and probably never will. I love the area across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, especially Oakland and Berkeley where I have lived and studied for a handful of years. I am an East Bay creature of habit and tend to stick to the same places, the same routes, and the same routines week after week.

I had the fortune of having my East Bay routine broken yesterday as I visited three high schools in West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD): Kennedy High School, El Cerrito High School, and De Anza High School. These three schools all have Tech Futures IT Academies and I saw some excellent teaching and learning, lots of passion for digital media, and tons of creativity and student engagement. In fact, the IT Academies have seen improved GPAs and A to G completion rates. Not only is creativity and technology in classrooms fun, but it leads to improved student performance and experiences in school!

My excellent guide to WCCUSD IT Academies and Tech Futures was Ben  who is a coach for WCCUSD’s College and Career Readiness Collaborative. He previously was a teacher at El Cerrito High and has been involved with Tech Futures since the beginning. Thanks, Ben!

Kennedy High School, Richmond, California

kennedy classroomIt was Halloween and there was no shortage of face paint and creepy decorations in Ms. Simon’s classroom. There, I saw seniors in Digital Arts 2 class get a brief demo from Ms. Simon on how to make web pages in Dreamweaver. Meanwhile, the Teacher’s Assistant– who had graduated from the program last year and is studying digital design in college– circulated to help students. When I asked him if being a TA helped him in his coursework, he said, “Definitely.”

Ms Simon’s Digital Arts students also learn Photoshop and Flash. She hopes to use Edge Animate in the future, but needs to secure some software and tutorials, first. She said her kids love the “instant gratification”  of being able to make a product that is modern. She said her kids are tech savvy and want to be creating what they’re also consuming. In the summer, she runs a summer program with her students who complete pro bono projects for local small businesses. Thanks to Ms. Simon and her students!

El Cerrito High School, El Cerrito, Californiael cerrito school in sun

One of the reasons I love the East Bay is the weather– always 5-10 degrees warmer and sunnier than in San Francisco. Sadly, there wasn’t a Digital Arts class in session (no, it wasn’t the weather luring kids out of class, just lunchtime!), but I got to meet Ms. Shah who has been the Digital Arts teacher at El Cerrito for 8 years. Formerly in advertising and then a freelance graphic designer before becoming a teacher.

One of the most exciting things about Ms. Shah’s class — besides that she teaches Dreamweaver, Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator — is that her seniors get to experience having clients and doing pro bono design projects for real, live people and organizations. In the Spring semester, her students begin the process of meeting with their client to understand their needs and their organization. Then, the students work in groups to design assets (logos, websites, etc.) that are custom built for their clients. There are client meetings, final presentations, judges, not to mention some hard-working students. I can’t wait to return and see her and her students in action!

De Anza High School, El Sobrante, California

de anza stu at work My third school visit of the day was to the recently-built De Anza High School. In Ms. Hansen’s class, students were busy working on making logos for the school’s upcoming theater production. How exciting that students will be performing in the brand new theater and designing the logo for the production, too? Again, I can’t wait to return and see De Anza kids creating!


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