Fostering Responsible Digital Citizenship: Q.I. Roberts Jr.-Sr. High School

Arriving on the STEM Education Scene Just in Time

When Christopher Cantrell decided to start substitute teaching at Q.I. Roberts Jr.-Sr. High School in Florahome, Florida, he never imagined where this journey would lead him. After a year of subbing, the school’s Computer Science Teacher position opened up. Christopher decided to commit to this line of work. He obtained his alternative teaching certificates in computer science, business education, and public education, working tirelessly to catch up in areas where he felt he was behind. Now, he leads his students as they explore concepts in computer science, AI, cybersecurity, and coding, adding a valuable dimension to the school’s existing curriculum.

Before Cantrell began working at Q.I. Roberts, the school had already established an aerospace program, aiming to enable students to receive drone licenses by graduation and prepare for futures as drone operators and pilots. This program is led by Daniel Lewandowski and Dr. James Neale. Additionally, Jerome Rothschild teaches robotics courses for middle schoolers. For a school with a graduating class of fifty students, having four science and technology-based teachers keeps the students at Q.I Roberts engaged.

Science and Technology Opens the Door to the Future

Q.I. Roberts is an AICE/Cambridge school. This means that one of the main objectives for teachers and administrators is to help students receive Bright Futures Scholarships, a Florida scholarship awarded to students who invest their time in AICE courses to receive college credit. This scholarship helps students pay for college and advanced education courses after they graduate. This is a huge opportunity for students at Q.I. Roberts, a small, rural school.

With this in mind, STEM courses at Q.I. Roberts tend to be college prep courses that teach students how to build upon their knowledge in the future. Cantrell teaches two high school AP courses: “AP Computer Science Principles” and “AP Computer Science A.” He also provides elective courses in AI, computer programming, and data science for students who want to major in computer science at university or who have a special interest in the subject.

STEM is for Everyone

Computer science and technology courses are not only for students who plan to pursue careers in computer or data science. All students at Q.I. Roberts spend time with Cantrell and are also exposed to drones and robotics with Dr. Neale or Mr. Lewandowski.

Cantrell’s third-period class consists of 7th and 8th graders, where students learn how to code in Minecraft, HTML, and CSS—the basic building blocks of computer science. Later in the semester, middle school students learn how to build simple websites and develop games.

At the high school level, in AP or AICE courses, students learn JavaScript and advanced computer systems. The final project for AP Computer Science involves designing and programming an internet application from scratch in teams. Students learn concepts in app development, cybersecurity, and coding to aid them with their final project.

Cantrell also teaches an extracurricular called Esports, where students participate in digital sports using gaming systems such as PC, Xbox Series X/S, or PS5. This extracurricular activity and after-school program is for students who crave the collaboration and camaraderie of sports but are more interested in the digital world.

Cantrell’s Esports program provides an opportunity for students to receive scholarship money by participating in HSEL competitions with students from other high schools, playing games like Super Smash Brothers, Valorant, and Apex Legends. Some students have won more than $10,000 in scholarships over the last two years by achieving the title of Halo Infinite National Champion. This creates a competitive, collaborative, and rewarding experience for students.

Technology Comes With Responsibility

Cantrell notes the prevalence of digital scams today and the compromise of sensitive personal information by hackers. He aims to teach students how to be healthy digital citizens, protecting their identities and information. Computer science is not just for tech-savvy students who will go on to work in AI or drone piloting; it is for everyone living in the 21st century, as anyone can be harmed on the internet simply by interacting with it. He states,

“I want to make everybody a good digital citizen and help them become aware of what is happening around them in this space.”

There is a line between responsible and irresponsible use of technology. If students are taught to interact positively and responsibly with technology, there is a greater chance of creating a culture that leans heavily towards positive technological advancement. Cantrell, who comes from a background in journalism and social sciences, has become a top proponent of this concept. He takes his role as a computer science teacher seriously and has found a new purpose that is crucially important for the future.

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Published: June 14, 2024

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