Whitfield introduces STEAM skills and concepts that students immediately use in their classes and will lean upon in college and in the working world. This emphasis on practical application ensures we are cultivating tomorrow's community leaders and innovators.
The Habits of Mind & Heart inform everything we do. Whitfield's commitment to character development extends to the IT realm through acceptable use guidelines, digital citizenship, copyright, and mindfulness.
Whitfield provides a powerful, flexible infrastructure and laptop experience for all students, faculty, and staff members. Windows 10 laptops from the Microsoft Surface Pro line allow us to touch, type, or hand write in a digital world. And, access to a suite of software and services (from Adobe Creative Cloud to Office 365) allows all our students and faculty to collaborate and create on a professional level. Yet, more often than not, our students will be reaching for pencil and paper, collaborating across both the physical and digital worlds, and looking up at classmates instead of down at a computer.
Student to laptop ratio
Frequency of laptop upgrades
Technology Team members
Students exposed to Computer Science
- Classrooms + Integrated Design Specialists
- Field Studies + Robotics
- UX Design + Social Studies
- Diversity + Computer Science
- Wellness + Technology
Opportunities to design intersections between these skills are surprisingly abundant, even with Whitfield’s youngest students. In our 7th grade social studies course, teachers and integrated design specialists use cultural competency concepts to teach user experience (UX) design; UX design work then reinforces the practical application of cultural competency skills. Having the right collaborative infrastructure in place is critical to the success of this process.
“Working with [Director of Equity & Inclusion] Anna Warbelow and [Director of Technology] Matt DiGiulio to teach and continually refine our Africa Infographic Project has made it an incredible experience for students,” says middle school social studies teacher Mary Schnitzler. In this six-week project, students do the work of a traditional research paper, then package that work by mimicking the app development process. Students study the UX design profession, conduct user research, apply conditional statements to storyboard their design concepts, then build fully functioning touchscreen exhibits.
Cultural competency lessons support not only the study of other cultures, but the active decision making that is required to consider multiple perspectives and design products for others. “As students move through the UX design process, we use language from our cultural competency lessons to coach students through the development of their products,” DiGiulio says. “This helps students recognize their own design biases and create in a way that celebrates their individual style while looking through the eyes of others.” The process of utilizing STEAM skills, like UX design, in a social studies classroom also provides students the opportunity to extend their study of traditional skills (like reading, writing, and research) in a practical, real-world way.
Staff members from Whitfield’s academic administration, teaching and learning, wellness, and diversity departments also partner with our integration specialists. This produces a cross-pollination of ideas that results in some of the most innovative support structures and STEAM programming in education today.
Case in point is Whitfield’s new Foundations course for ninth graders. Created in 2018, this required sequence of trimester courses provides freshmen the opportunity to dig into topics and trends that are immediately relevant and critical for growth within and beyond Whitfield classrooms. One of those trimester courses, Computer Science & Society, combines the design power of Andrew Asikainen and Director of Equity & Inclusion Dr. Anna Warbelow.
“Combining diversity concepts with computer science education is much more relevant for students than if we were teaching either subject on its own,” say Asikainen and Warbelow in a joint interview. “Everything we hear from tech industry experts points towards the intersection of these worlds as we prepare students to design and build the tools that will drive their communities in the future.” Concepts like social identity, coding, big data, and implicit bias don’t normally fit together in high school or higher education courses. Whitfield believes that this intentional blend of “hard” and “soft” skills is necessary both for student success here and for the continued growth of STEAM industries at the local and national levels.
Valuing our students’ success in tomorrow’s STEAM-forward communities means preparing them for a future in which they will spend long hours working alongside computers and autonomous assistants. To do that, we combine workforce and wellness research to make sure we are building a foundation that embraces expected change, growth, and creativity in a way that Whitfield students can carry with them for a lifetime.
Basic file organization. Manipulation of digital information. Writing and presentation skills. Ownership and responsibility. An ability to adapt to different digital interfaces and environments. Computer-based critical thinking, problem solving, and self-guided learning. At Whitfield, students develop general competency by mastering a slew of foundational IT skills. We refer to this mastery as “digital fluency.” Then, by layering “digital wellness” on top of fluency, we help our students set healthy boundaries and develop a sustainable relationship with technology. This experience with mindfulness and self-awareness starts with adult guidance and sets Whitfield students up with a competitive advantage as they are able to set boundaries for themselves.
“It’s not easy, but digging into digital wellness—at home and at school—is one of our greatest responsibilities as parents and teachers,” says Whitfield’s Director of Health and Wellness Ginny Fendell. The collaboration between wellness and technology manifests as advisory programming, a no cell phone policy, an awareness of the biological processes at play when we interact digitally, and an acceptable use of technology policy that emphasizes social media, personal growth, character, integrity, relationships, and ongoing conversation while setting expectations and boundaries.
"We are at our best when we’re working across boundaries and alongside others. Although it would be easier to stick to our silos, we thoughtfully weave the things that are important to us into the fabric of our academic program."
"We support students and faculty first and systems second. The Support Desk is a hub where we collaborate with students and faculty, explore technology options, answer questions, and provide support. In classrooms our team consults with students on project ideation, leads workshops on new tools, and supports faculty. Our 1:1 laptop program mirror's our commitment to the Habits of Mind & Heart, guiding students to healthy technology habits that they will take with them when they graduate."
"Student engagement starts with trust. I approach each task as though I were a student and focus on showing them the most efficient way to work.I feel fortunate to be able to help students develop strategies they can apply to achieve both academic and personal goals."
"Students at Whitfield are risk takers who are interested in learning. Teaching computer science allows me to see the creative tenacity in our students. They learn through doing and are actively willing to fail in order to learn how programming works. The students have the motivation to learn, and many times, they take challenges further than required because of their curiosity."