Summer school has never been this cool: kids in a Los Angeles neighborhood will spend four weeks using iPads and MacBook Airs in a digital storytelling class.
The class is part of a three-subject curriculum — they’ll be boning up on English and math skills, too — to boost the chances of 65 ninth graders to get into college.
It’s the first offering of the Trans4m Boyle Heights Initiative, backed by a $7 million, three-year commitment from Chase and lead by will.i.am, who grew up in the neighborhood. His charity, i.am angel foundation, and College Track, co-founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, are teaming up for the project.
Cult of Mac talked to Enrique Legaspi, a history teacher at the Los Angeles Unified School District and co-site director at i.am College Track Boyle Heights. Legaspi is a firm believer in tech as a teaching tool – he’s also a YouTube Star Teacher and Google Certified Teacher. A Mac user since his dad gave him the bug in 2001, he loves his MacBook Air so much he wrote a Twitter verse about it.
Legaspi’s vision for the Trans4m Boyle Heights Initiative is to get kids to learn to code so that they can design their dreams, whether those dreams are about gaming, graphics or engineering. “We want kids to be able to connect the dots between math, science and the real world,” Legasi explained. “It’s one thing to be talented and another thing to be skilled.”
Getting kids access to the skills they need is where the Trans4m Boyle Heights Initiative comes in. Most of the kids in the initiative have never had access to actual computers, and while they may use smartphones to access Facebook or Twitter, Legaspi is trying to teach kids how to do more than just skate between one viral link and the next, but to become discoverers and researchers.
The main tool the Trans4m Boyle Heights Initiative uses to train kids to be researchers is the Digital Storytelling Class. In this class, groups of about fifteen students have four weeks to create a portfolio of five different kinds of stories, including one they’ll do about a science-related field trip.
“We want them to look at data and see how data can tell stories,” says Legaspi. “So, you ask your parents some questions but find out the demographics, the statistics behind what they’re saying and see how can you add that to your piece. I think it’ll be an eye-opener for them, you know, the numbers don’t lie.”
“They’ll be thinking about what they’re creating, selecting and sharing,”
As for the tech, the kids use iPads, MacBook Airs and Canon HD Cameras. According to Legaspi, they’re also invited to bring their own tech. “We want them to use what they have and take it to the next level. Some kids are going to have Droids in their pockets, and that’s fine, they can use those as well.”
Apple’s products, however, are the Trans4m Boyle Heights Initiative’s platform of choice.
“We are using Apple because it provides a solid platform for this developmental group leading all the way up to college,” explains Legaspi. “Apple offers a system designed so you can focus on learning and not caught up in “How do I quit this?” and “Why isn’t this working?” and focus on the content instead.”
At the end of the day, says Legaspi, the goal of the Tran4rm Boyle Heights Initiative is to take smart, talented kids and teach them to skills they need to make them better global citizens. And it’s no accident that Apple’s iPad and MacBook Air are the platforms that have been chosen to help these kids undergo that trans4mation.
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