SANTA MARIA, Calif. – School remains on winter break in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District through January 21, but classrooms at Tommy Kunst Junior High School were full on Wednesday with more than 150 students.
“They are learning all about technology. Technology that they won’t get exposed to in the classroom,” said Gina Danley, Teacher on Special Assignment for the GATE program.
It was all part of an event called the GATE Institute of Technology, which served as a one-day winter enrichment workshop. Each year, the school chooses a different topic for students to study. This year, the emerging field of technology was selected.
“We invited 6th grade, 7th grade and 8th grade and we chose to invite all of our gifted and talented students,” said Danley.
The students are part of the district’s GATE program, which is directed by Danley.
“That refers to a student who has a natural gift or talent in a variety of areas or a number of areas, whether it be leadership, math, science, social studies, English language arts, athletic ability or a collection of those areas.”
The workshop, which ran 6 1/2 hours, included several fun, interactive sessions designed to enhance students skills in coding, video editing, digital storytelling, gaming, Google apps and much more.
“I learned how to do Pixlr drawings,” said Alyna Barriga, a 6th grader at Tunnel Elementary School. “It’s where you take two pictures and you choose one for the background and one for the foreground.”
“Keyboard shortcuts mostly, I did those and I learned how to create a presentation, putting audio in, how to download it,” said Rajkunwar Nijjar, a 6th grade student at Taylor Elementary School.
The students felt the technology the were exposed to during the workshop is important to their education and will help build a foundation they’ll use the rest of their lives.
“In the future everything is going to start changing,” said Barriga. “We’re going to need the technology so we know what we’re going to be doing.”
“Coming in the future, it’s not going to be pen and papers, you’re going to have to do it on computers,” said Nijjar.
The school district has made a commitment to enhancing technology skills throughout all its 19 schools, which included more than 16,000 students and 1,600 employees. Earlier this school year, more than 800 teachers and staff members participated in a Google technology training summit. The GATE workshop was modeled after the earlier one with the hope it will help students keep pace with technological advances.