Like so many aspects of life at Sonoma Academy, the way in which we integrate technology into the curriculum is grounded in the idea of community. It’s no wonder, with Director of Technology Sean Freese steering the ship. Although he jokes that others might define technology as “anything that doesn’t work quite right,” he has his own thoughtful definition. “Technology, at its core, is a means of facilitating relationships,” says Sean. “At the end of the day, no matter what the hardware or software being used, technology is about building connections with others.”
Sean, like many of our students, is a multifaceted Renaissance man with a broad range of interests beyond the tech realm. Sean’s degree in Anthropology and Linguistics informs his approach to helping students engage with the digital and virtual worlds. “One of my biggest goals is to help students recognize that technological systems are not value neutral,” he says. “I want our students to understand the social context in which technology operates, and that instruments of technology come with moral and cultural implications, for better and for worse.”
Simply instructing kids in the use of discrete pieces of equipment does not make for a sound technology education, as any Gen-Xer who sat through hours of instruction in the use of an electric word processor can attest. We do strive to give students a practical knowledge base in how current technological systems generally work, as well as a framework to use when they encounter a new piece of tech, so they can figure out how to operate it. But we go further. We challenge our students to think critically about the application of technological tools in the real world, and about the experience of the people who use that tech.
Throughout our academic curriculum, we give students opportunities to go through the process of creating their own pieces of technology. Building their own tech is an exercise that encourages students to think critically, plan, and prototype, but also to understand the user’s experience. Whether they are creating apps designed to help users modify specific behaviors in Self and Society, creating artificial wrists in Engineering for Social Good, or developing immersive virtual simulations of Balinese Subak water systems in freshman Humanities, our students must practice empathy to understand how users will interact with their work.
At many schools, technology education stops with the nitty-gritty details on how to use specific programs or pieces of hardware. At Sonoma Academy, practical instruction serves as a launching pad for meaningful conversations about responsibility, honesty, integrity, perseverance, and much more, helping us to become a more “connected” community.
The only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.