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STEVE ZIMMERMAN ACCENTURE TECHNOLOGY AWARD

Chatting with China at 8 a.m.
State-of-the-art software and high-tech music programs at Brandeis

Peek into a classroom in Louis D. Brandeis High School at 8 a.m. and you’ll see students huddled around a television screen. But they’re not vegging out to cartoons— they’re videoconferencing with China.

On the outside, Brandeis resembles any other city high school. Its building takes up a whole city block, and the 3,000 students are largely middle- to lowerincome and of Latino descent. But on the inside, the 100 or so students involved in technology programs are doing anything but ordinary work.

The Global Multicultural Heritage project, as the teleconferencing program is known, allows students to communicate with Chinese and Taiwanese high school students. At 8 a.m. New York time and 8 p.m. Asian time, the students videoconference live, asking questions about each other’s cultures and exchanging media projects, explained Phillip Seymour, the school’s technology integration specialist. Teachers volunteer their classes to participate in the program and students post multi-disciplined, multi-media presentations on the project’s website, according to Rachel Dahill-Fuchel, the school’s professional developer. Teachers Devon Walsh, Maria Santana, Martin Regan and Hemanth Venkataraman oversee the cultural exchange.

It’s a method of experience-based learning, which blends language skills and technology.

“We’re using state-of-the-art software,” Seymour said, pointing to NASAdeveloped equipment that the school uses to communicate with the Asian students.

Dahill-Fuchel said the project’s software is 100 times better than what powers Google Earth.

Brandeis’ music technology program is another standout. Under the direction of electronic music teacher Eva Egolf, students compose their own pieces, from hip hop to classical, using advanced composition software.

“It’s very individualized,” Seymour said.

Students then use iMovies and AfterEffects software to create accompanying animations for their compositions and Photoshop for album covers. There are plans to post CDs securely on the Internet so friends and relatives can hear student compositions. Brandeis secured funding for this program with a grant from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Brandeis also works with the American Composers Orchestra, which provides music lessons to small groups of high school students and helps them compose music electronically. The school also has a pending partnership with the New York Philharmonic.

“We are focused on the future,” the principal, Dr. Eloise Messineo, wrote in an email, “and glad that the entire city is learning that Brandeis High School is a place where young people from all communities can be afforded the opportunity to attend and take advantage of our superb programs.”

Brandeis was also recently denoted an “empowerment school,” which gives Messineo as principal more decision-making responsibilities and access to greater resources.

Council Member Gale Brewer, who is chair of the Technology in Government Committee and also represents Brandeis’ district, described Messineo and the school’s teachers as “unsung heroes.”

“It’s a group of young people with a lot of educational challenges,” Brewer said. “She [Messineo] has really worked to make it a first rate facility. It’s only possible with the leadership.”

-- Jessica Wakeman

 

 





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