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Engaging students with digital media technology


In a high-tech computer lab and studio at Oakland’s Skyline High School, students create digital magic using the latest in audio/visual equipment. Here, high school students explore everything from computer hardware repair to documentary filmmaking.

When the morning bell rings at Skyline High School, instead of starting the day in a traditional classroom, a select group of students hurries off to room 43, where they await their next high-tech assignment.

The teacher, Mr. Frey, introduces the day’s task.

“Today, what we are working on, we started on the Bullying Project, editing interviews,” says Frey. Out of the 15 interviews, we take pieces and put them together using final-cut pro skills.”

This is Frey’s digital filmmaking class of seniors who have spent the last three years in the Computer Science and Technology Academy at Skyline. They are currently working on a project creating a series of Public Service Announcements about bullying.

“So we are going to go ahead and wrap up the bullying interviews,” says Frey.

Frey is the Director of the Computer Science and Technology Academy. He founded the program in 1998.

“It’s a career academy,” says Frey. “The idea is to focus on technology and computers and media production.”

Frey is still excited about what he does, even after nearly fifteen years of teaching.

“He is the most enthusiastic teacher, he has the most patience, he makes the video process easier,” says Karen Amore.

“He has humor, he makes the class fun, he helps us along the way. Mostly he just lets us do our thing ourselves,” says Ariana Argijo.

“He just knows how to relate to the students,” Harold Powell adds.

Amore, Argijo, and Powell are all seniors, and they have been taking Frey’s classes for the last three years. In fact, the program offers a technology class for students in 10th through 12th grades.

Frey attracts students from all academic levels and abilities.

“We actively recruit students that aren’t necessarily doing really well in school,” Frey says. “We are trying to find kids at all levels, trying to get kids that are struggling; we try to balance it, hopefully bring them all up and out of the school.”

Frey believes in enhancing the classroom experience through student diversity. The program is full-inclusive, which means it’s completely accessible to Special Ed students at Skyline.

“This particular program is really accessible because it’s technologically oriented, so people with certain needs, it’s easier for them to access,” says Mr. Tentler, an inclusion and special education aide at Skyline.

“There is a big effort to include everybody in the mainstream classes – to help make it more diverse and help people socialize – which is really cool,” Tentler says.

There’s a lot of really awesome equipment in the studio of higher quality than what many colleges and universities have.

“We have brand new iMacs we got last year,” says Frey. “They are all Big Monsters. I feel like the Wizard of Oz.”

For kids who think school is boring, the Computer Science and Technology Academy at Skyline High School provides them with a creative curriculum that keeps things both fun and exciting.

Theresa Soares is a student reporter at Mills College in Oakland.