Technology is seemingly omnipresent in the 21st century learning environment — from the laptops or tablets in students' hands to the online applications utilized numerous ways (research, enrichment, etc.).
Digital Learning Day celebrated those numerous innovations that have strengthened students' learning experiences earlier this week. Many such efforts have been celebrated in Newton too, but perhaps in no class is the full breadth of the technological impact embraced more than in Tyler Swalley's classes at Newton High School.
Swalley is teacher in charge of the IT Networking career pathway at NHS and while all students are required to take the introductory course of computer applications, those who continue on get a bit more of a "whole hog" experience utilizing technology in the classroom. The very next course (IT Essentials) tasks students with learning the ins and outs of the PC, including hardware and software.
"We start with the base of a computer. We take it apart, we put it back together, we add an operating system to it and we begin working with the operating system," Swalley said.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Swalley noted, his students began learning how to work with remote desktop — controlling another computer through an application to do software updates and other tasks. This past week, they also took apart laptops to learn the nuanced differences between those devices and PCs.
Outside of the IT pathways courses, Swalley also teaches web design at NHS — another tech-heavy course that teaches coding, among other skills. For Swalley, utilizing technology is just the nature of his domain, which he noted is becoming more common no matter the curriculum.
"Computers are everywhere, and I think technology is just becoming more and more prevalent," Swalley said. "I think there's just a necessity with being able to interface with that technology, fix that technology and improve upon it. I don't think computers are going anywhere."
Fixing computers is a real-world skill Swalley said his students have taken out into the halls of NHS, helping their classmates with various technological issues. He noted he even has a couple of students with current internships that are taking on similar duties — one for the city of Newton.
Beyond the IT Essentials, Swalley also teaches a Network systems class, with 13 students enrolled currently.
"They learn how to program routers and switches to do exactly what it is that we want them to do. They learn how to protect them and they learn how to set up a network, maybe a small school or a small home network," Swalley said.
Eventually, those skills will translate into helping the students manage larger networks and the tasks that come with that (routing traffic, addressing individual computers, etc.). While the courses will help students earn college credits, going through the full pathway can launch them into the workforce immediately after high school. As of this year, Swalley said there are a couple of students who have gone on to do that — who are also currently enrolled in college.
Aligned with Cisco Systems, completion of the final course in the pathway — Router Basics — will allow students to become a Cisco Certified Entry Level Network Technician and offer an opportunity to start out in a help desk job and progress in the field.
Swalley (in his fourth year at NHS, and third leading the pathway) has his first student in that final course this year. As the program continues to grow, he is hopeful the constant work with technology will give his students a foot in the door — whether they chose to go on to college or immediately pursue career opportunities.
Newton High School has put a lot of digital opportunities at its students' fingertips, which is necessary given the changing educational environment. While Swalley pointed out that previous generations may have gone to libraries for their information, today's generation will often hop on their computers and go to Google.
Readily accessible as that technology is, he is focused on giving all the students he works with the skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world.
"I think it's important because I think that's kind of gonna be what the workplace looks like in the future," Swalley said. "They're gonna be asked to utilize a large amount of technology, so being able to use it efficiently and well will put them in a better spot."