Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

21st Century Skills class aims to give students technological understanding, teach life lessons

A digital-based class implemented at Del Norte High School is helping students look toward the future.

The 21st Century Skills class taught by second-year teacher Derek Arnell adds a life skills element to a class that revolves around technology.

Arnell currently has 128 students split among four classes who receive instruction on topics that vary from keyboarding to a presentation on "sexting" and "cyberbullying" presented by the lead investigator from the Del Norte County District Attorney's Office.

"We really try to get them off on the right foot for the future," said Arnell.

Aside from helping the students learn about proper keyboarding posture and techniques and the inner workings of a computer, Arnell uses his skills from the Business Education degree he received from the University of Minnesota to teach kids about handling money.

He schools them about savings and checkings accounts and how to keep a running balance. He also instructs about how banking systems work.

"I try to give them a foundation before they go to senior economics," said Arnell.

But there wouldn't be a need for a bank account without a supply of income, so Arnell has taken the class into career exploration hoping to get students to think about life after high school.

After exploring career paths and post-secondary options whether they be at a four-year university or vocational school, Arnell asks students "what they discovered about themselves while doing career exploration." Their answers will be included in a portfolio of projects that showcase what they have learned in the class.

The class dives into responsible ways of dealing with life saturated in social media.

He emphasizes the difference between using their "academic voice" as opposed to their "texting voices."

Confusing the two creates a problem he noticed when grading writing assignments and encountering shorthand language or slang that would normally be reserved for a less formal environment.

Even more serious ramifications for misuse of technology are discussed when DA's Investigator A.C. Field steps into the class.

Last month Field gave a presentation to all of the freshman about the dangers of sending inappropriate material through texts and photos, as well as the impacts of "cyberbullying."

"The whole purpose, especially at this age in life, is to try to make the kids think about tomorrow," said Field. "This generation has access to technology that the law never anticipated. Especially,that technology is so open for the adolescent age group, they can get into trouble for so many things they aren't aware of."

Arnell said the kids' faces show their surprise when Field explains the consequences of sending risque photos, which could translate into a felony lewd a lascivious acts charge.

Field's presentation also targets the necessity of refraining from harassing other people on the Internet because the ramifications could include suicide, exactly what happened in a few high-profile cases around the country.

"It's important for them to know about this, to prevent innocent kids doing normal things that teenagers do, to not make a big mistake early in life," said Field.

Jessica Calderon, one of Arnell's student, found the presentation enlightening, especially the fact that authorities could get involved as the result of a single picture.

The social media aspect of the class has student James LeClaire approaching his posts to the Internet differently.

"When I'm on Facebook I think about what I'm posting before I post it," said LeClaire.

Overall, he has found the class insightful.

"It's educational, a lot more schools should have it," said LeClaire.

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