Inspiring Our Middle School Students to be Digitally Literate – the Fun Way

The Office of the Chief Information Officer is taping some of California’s best digital literacy organizations to spotlight on our YouTube channel to model great programs for others.  Our video team had the pleasure of hanging out after school with the digitally hip students of A.P Giannini Middle School at the after school program run by Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center.

There, we attended Urban Music Program, where the teacher, teacher/founder Jon Bernson said the kids were preparing to be the disc  jockies for a school dance the next week.  They were downloading the digital music they wanted from the Internet, organizing the dance playlist, and practicing how they would DJ their assigned songs.   They were really excited about their important job for  their fellow students.  In the program which dates back to 1997, the budding musicians learn to make beats, freestyle, do field recordings, and write and produce songs.  They were having a lot of fun in this class, assisted by returning alums from high school and beyond who want to share their enthusiasm for music with these students.  Jon mentioned that more girls were now coming to his class, a relatively recent breakthrough lead by a few trailblazing females.

Next, we wandered down the hall to shoot some tape of the after school MOUSE Squad and Flash Animation clubs.   These kids were doing some amazing work on iMacs.  In the MOUSE Squad, two boys had built a small robot car and were learning to program the car to move forward, stop, turn right, stop and then curve back.  These students become tech support squad for the teachers in the school.

In the Flash Animation club, one boy was animating a cartoon he had drawn, while three girls were making animated icons using Flash animation techniques.   Linda, the Flash Animation teacher, said she has a tough time staying ahead of her students, and sometimes they are teaching her the latest techniques.

The neighborhood served by Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center contains a lot of non English speaking residents, including Asians and Hispanics.  The Center offers many other community based services for the underserved youth and adults in the District, including evening computer classes for adults.  What impressed me about their digital literacy programs was that these kids were busy learning computer skills that would see them well in their future careers, and developing confidence in themselves and their abilities.  It also made me happy to see them working in areas of music and art, areas where some public schools have little money for programs.  After the new year, keep an eye on the CaliforniaCio You Tube channel for our digital literacy feature on the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center in San Francisco.