Academy partners with Digital Literacy + Coding pilot!

The YMCA Academy has always leveraged computer technology in the service of student learning. Laptop-based assistive technologies are at the heart of the supports we provide to a wide range of learning styles. Thus, when we had an opportunity to partner with the Brookfield Institute in their “Digital Literacy + Coding” pilot project“, we jumped at the chance.

The Academy has committed to running eight 12-week sessions to introduce youth in the GTA to the logic and practice of coding. We see this pilot as providing our students with additional expertise and knowledge that will be hugely important in the job markets they will face when they graduate. These sessions are free of charge, and laptops are provided.

By introducing Digital Literacy + Coding to a wide variety of youth, including youth who are underrepresented in this growing field, The Academy hopes to help shape the future.

The program will introduce youth to a variety of activities leading to a final project that each participant has chosen. They will be “remixing” websites, games, and other web-based applications to get a better understanding of how they work, and how elements of the code affect the final product.

The Digital Literacy + Coding pilot will focus on several languages, particularly HTML, CSS, and a brief introduction to JavaScript. These are the languages that are the backbone to complex and engaging web pages. This program is an excellent way to help youth begin the journey of sparking passion for STEM-related fields by learning the basics of the coding languages of the web.

 

Digital and Smartphone Photography Workshop

On October 24th, the Grade 11 Media Arts class and the Grade 10 Communications Technology classes participated in a Digital and Smartphone Photography workshop at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Students were taken on a tour of several galleries and instructed on how to use their cell phones to take pictures. We spent the afternoon browsing a variety of galleries. The first photographs we saw were done by artists who were competing in the AIMIA|AGO Photography Prize. There were four photographers in this gallery, all from different countries around the world: Russia/Ghana, Haida/Canada, Japan and Uganda. We were shown all of their different styles of photography and then were able to cast our vote in the end! Each was very interesting in their own way and the students seemed very inspired by the very different types of photography by each artist.

Next we went on to see a gallery called Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood. This gallery focused on artist’s depictions of Canada from the perspective of those that have been left out of the dominant narrative. In addition to photography, there was painting, sculpture, fashion, video art and more in this gallery. Students used this gallery, and the photographs in the AIMIA Prize gallery, to practice their photography skills. As they took photos of the art, they were encouraged to focus on using the Rule of Thirds and different angles to photograph the works of art.

The tour ended with analyzing some famous European works of art, such as Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens, and understanding the techniques and tools that the artist’s used. Students also put their critical analysis skills to good use by interpreting the message of the painting.

Overall it was a great experience touring the AGO and the student’s left feeling inspired!

Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!

Leveling the Playing Field

YMCA Academy student using in-class assistive technology on a laptop.

On March 30, like students throughout Ontario, YMCA Academy students participated in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). Unlike a vast majority of them, however, Academy students make use of a full range of accommodations to enable them to write the test on an equal footing with all of their peers.

Because The Academy is a school for students who learn differently, there are many potential barriers to their access to the testing process. Students with dysgraphia, for example, can have extreme difficulty with writing or typing. Students with language-based learning disabilities can have difficulty reading text from a page. Others, by virtue of learning disabilities or learning style differences, cannot access test materials in ways common to most learners. Such students can be fully literate (and after all, the purpose of the OSSLT is to determine a basic literacy level for all Ontario Students), but would not appear to be so without accommodations.

What are the accommodations available to students for the OSSLT? Students have access to a wide array of supports. The test is made available in a variety of formats, including text to speech, large type and Braille versions. Laptops are available to access these formats. As well, students can use computers to compose their responses. According to their specific learning needs, students can type their responses, dictate them using speech to text software, or even have a person scribe their answers.

Students with processing speed issues can be given extra time to complete the OSSLT; those with attention issues can be given an individual or small group setting for their test. They are allowed periodic supervised breaks and the supervising adult can prompt them back to work as needed.

Students with learning style differences can be at a disadvantage if they are not appropriately supported. At The YMCA Academy, we ensure that the full range of supports is in place to give our students the best possible opportunity for success – on the OSSLT, in school, and beyond.

Trek Talks: Bridging Science and the Arts

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the debut of Star Trek, a show that has captured the imagination of its fans, inspired the creation of many technologies, and most importantly, given viewers an encouraging vision of the future where the human race has learned to work with one another in a utopian society. In honour of this milestone, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Lightbox Theatre has put together a series of events to celebrate the occasion.

One such event is Trek Talks: Bridging Science and the Arts. This is a panel style discussion on Star Trek and education which includes a physician (Sonny Kohli) a Canadian astronaut (Jeremy Hansen) and Royal Ontario Museum Managing Director (Marianne Mader). The panel will discuss how science can inspire the arts and how the art in turn can inspire science. The panel will also discuss how film and television projects like Star Trek inspire careers in science, space, technology, math, arts, and engineering.

Since Star Trek embodies so much science, it was (as Mr. Spock would say) a logical conclusion to take the grade 10 science class to partake in this discussion. And so on star date 10.13.16, the grade 10 science class, along with their Captain and the Academy’s Technical Analyst officer, boldly navigated their way to the TIFF Lightbox Theatre at warp speed, and listened in awe to the stories and anecdotes of the presenters.

After being introduced to the panel, the audience was shown a video montage of a variety of scenes from the various Star Trek television shows that visually demonstrated the science and art themes of the event. The panel discussed and explored a variety of questions and topics audience which included:

  • How Star Trek influenced their career path
  • What aspects of Star Trek have allowed its legacy to last for 50 years?
  • The importance of scientific accuracy in television shows
  • The ethics of scientific progress
  • The advantages of a scientifically literate society
  • Star Trek’s influence on the development of technology
  • The importance of risk taking in scientific exploration

After listening to the panel members’ personal and enthusiastic answers, the audience were granted an opportunity to ask questions to the panel. Three of our student’s posed their questions to the panel and listened with curiosity to the answers. After the event concluded, we had the honour of taking a group photograph with one of the panel members, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen.

Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!

To watch the entire panel discussion see below! (To skip to our student questions, forward to time index 1 hour, 31 minutes)

Students visit Tattoo Sound + Music

As part of a unit on the world of sound, the Academy’s two Grade 10 Communications Technology classes travelled to Tattoo Sound + Music earlier this week.

Dana, Steve, and the Tattoo staff spent their morning conducting an interactive, hands-on workshop for the group. Students learned about the process of creating a rich sonic tapestry, how to get started in the industry, what it’s like to work with major clients, and how the equipment in a professional recording studio works. Then, volunteers from each class got behind the microphones and recorded some foley sound effects for a commercial!

Authentic learning experiences like these are vital and highly engaging opportunities for students to build on and apply the skills they learn in class. The Academy group asked many excellent questions, and were excited to learn that some major musical stars had once graced the very spot where they stood.

But we couldn’t do it without support from people like Dana, Steve, and the Tattoo Sound + Music crew, who opened their doors to the school and took time out of their busy schedules to enrich our students’ learning. You can read more about our commitment to experiential learning here.

Check out the rest the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page!