SIOUX CITY | For students at West Middle School, technology class is more than learning the nuances of word processors and PowerPoint presentations.
Students are learning how to code, program computers and design video games in Mike Borrall’s technology-based 21st century skills class.
Borrall, 36, has been teaching at West Middle for five years. This is the first year he has been able to teach the advanced curriculum.
The 21st century skills class is taught in each of the Sioux City Community School District's three middle schools, said Alison Benson, school district spokeswoman.
However, Borrall's pilot program offers a more advanced curriculum to 57 West Middle students with the goal of guiding them into their specific area of interest when they reach high school.
“We’ve been asking, 'What can we do with middle school technology?'” said Borrall. “In the past, the eighth-graders have been working with Microsoft Suite (basic word processor), and they were getting bored. We had to come up with something more challenging.”
Which is exactly what Borrall set out to do.
“I’ve been researching different, more complex classroom technology projects for the past four or five years, and now we finally get to do it,” he said. “They’re learning a lot more tech skills than they ever did before.”
Eighth-graders Reid Brandon, 14, Ralphy Aguilar, 13, and Nathan Henning, 14 -- who hope to someday become a mechanical engineer, aircraft engineer and astrophysicist, respectively -- say this technology push will help them achieve their life goals.
“It’s all about technology," said Brandon. "The more you know, the better you’ll be."
Borrall's unique curriculum includes digital design -- students are working on a school resources video -- programming flying drones and, most recently, using rear screen projection software Camtasia.
The program has immediate benefits as well. Students from the class won blue ribbons for their projects at the Iowa Technology and Education Connection, or ITEC, regional fair last week at the Northwest Area Education Agency in Sioux City.
ITEC participants include Aleasha Wilde, 14, and Caroline Oberg, 14, who programmed lights to flash and move in conjunction with music. The class’ entire lighted project was featured at the West Middle School band concert Tuesday.
“I thought it was pretty interesting to learn how to control the lights. I’ve never done anything like that before,” said Wilde, who has her sights set on physical therapy as a future career.
“When I first saw it, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, we’re going to be doing this!’” said Oberg.
That student enthusiasm is common in Borrall’s class. He said the students have shown a lot of interest in the curriculum.
“None of the kids have been like, 'Aw man!' about anything,” he said. “Everything I’ve brought up, the kids think it’s cool.”
Watching his students work on those ambitious projects makes Borrall wonder what’s in store for the future.
“I was 35 years old when I learned how to take color out of the background of a video,” he said. “These eighth-graders are learning this now. Just imagine what they will be doing when they’re 35.”
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