Last year Sunny Hills’ Irene M. Hunt School of Marin (the Hunt School), where more than thirty 5-17 year olds with severe emotional challenges come to learn, went through a major remodel. Some of the upgrades were structural – a new classroom was built and wheelchair ramps, landings and other accessibility improvements made the school physically easier to navigate. Cosmetic improvements like new paint, carpets and windows gave the school a bright new shine.
During renovations, the school’s infrastructure was also enhanced to support high-speed wireless internet throughout the school’s entire campus. With faster internet, and through the generous support from many corners of our community, we brought in laptop and desktop computers and iPads — enough computers for every student at the Hunt School to have access. A local computer retailer installed Windows 7 software on every laptop, and the school secured specialized software programs that help teachers use personalized computer instruction to keep students engaged and able to learn at the student’s own pace.
It didn’t take long for the Hunt School students to become savvy researchers, able to locate academically relevant information on-line. For student who struggle with reading and writing, on-line videos provide engaging ways to receive information other than with textbooks. Finally, when Hunt’s high-school students are ready to look for jobs, they review on-line job posts and participate in on-line career training, just as young people in ‘traditional’ schools do. An important part of computer training for every Hunt School student is “Basic Internet Safety,” ensuring that the children understand the dangers and how to avoid potentially risky on-line situations.
Jolene Yee, Principal at The Irene M. Hunt School of Marin said, “We live in a world where technology is the norm. Many of our students have access to computers at home and most of their friends use them. Research indicates that computers in the classroom increase student engagement and motivation and accelerate learning, and at the Hunt School, those are our primary goals. Adding computers to our already rich academic environment has put our students on par with other children their age, and reinforces the idea that learning can be exciting and fun.”