• CLAIRE CRISPEN '15

Power On Technology Classes at SUA

St. Ursula Academy has always prided itself in offering young women an excellent education through both dedicated staff and innovative philosophy. As of recently, SUA has taken a major stride rooted in this mission and is providing students with a new learning opportunity that, in this modern world of rapidly changing technology, is of paramount importance. St. Ursula Academy and the University of Cincinnati’s School of Information Technology, as a part of the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH), have signed a partnership that is bringing after-school technology classes to SUA students. This collaboration will allow undergraduate UC students to apply their knowledge by teaching real-world projects and encourage St. Ursula students to experience Information Technology in a hands-on environment.

Jim Scott, former CTO at Kroger, Co. and an IT Executive-in-Residence at UC School of Information Technology, worked to facilitate the partnership between the two institutions. “Making the classroom experience fun for students certainly makes the entire program more effective. Information Technology can be very rewarding and a great career for students—they just need to have more exposure to the opportunities that exist. It’s our role as faculty and educators to create an environment where that is possible.” As a budding IT enthusiast myself, I was thrilled to take part in the week long classes.

Our first official class was, to say the least, a success. We kicked off with an Objective-C coding project, which took the form of a simple game for any iOS device (namely, iPhones and iPads). This game, titled SwipeIt, is the brainchild of our instructor Anthony Vella, a current student at the UC School of Information Technology. SwipeIt was the perfect beginner project because it is simple to build and, upon completion, very addictive to play. The actual game consists of arrows pointing various directions falling across the screen from top to bottom. The player swipes her finger in whichever direction the arrow is pointing and gains points for each accurate swipe. As a player gains more points, the progression of arrows increases in speed. Vella has since developed a more sophisticated version, which can be downloaded for free on the App Store here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/match-the-arrow/id921397107?ls=1&mt=8

But, of course, before we were able to play it, we had to code it. Objective-C is a coding language that was originally developed in the 1980s but has gained popularity with the rise of iOS technology. It has its roots in a more prominent language, called C, but lends itself to being more “object oriented.” This means the code is built around the concept of objects, just like any item that exists in the physical world. For example, you may have a pen sitting on your desk right now. It is characterized by its size and color ink. Object-oriented languages allow us to access properties of objects, like that pen’s size and color, within a digital realm and manipulate them.

We used a program called xCode on Mac computers as a vehicle of making connections between text, objects, and actions within our game. Having little to no experience with Objective-C, or any coding language for that matter, it was quite a learning experience that I—even as an Android user–enjoyed very much.

SUA junior Gracie Ehemann, a programming novice herself, attended the classes as well. “The instructors were fantastic at teaching the material. I cannot wait to go back and learn in this new form of classes that SUA is now offering. It is truly something to appreciate!”

Students and educators alike are excited about this partnership between St. Ursula Academy and CECH because it offers both institutions an innovative learning opportunity. While UC students are able to share their passion and knowledge for technology, SUA students are given the opportunity to fill a gap in their education. “Our world today is digital—thus making the understanding of basic technology as vital as reading, writing, and arithmetic,” says CECH professor Virginia Fritz, who sat in on the first tech class here at SUA and graciously assisted me with the coding of my own game. “Each student should know basic coding; how to use computer applications, how to install software; and the fundamentals of networking and security. These are skills necessary to function in a world where technology you will use three years from now doesn’t exist yet!” Up until this point, SUA has scarcely had the resources to train staff members in the rapidly changing field of Information Technology and, as a result, subjects such as programming, networking, and web development have been left out of our curriculum. But whether or not students should learn about technology is simply no longer an option, hence the significance of the partnership between SUA and CECH.

“We want to continue this collaboration,” says St. Ursula Academy principal Mr. Maliborski. “We’re fortunate to have access to their students, their professors, their knowledge, and their expertise.” SUA looks forward to more learning opportunities in which students to gain exposure and skills within the field of Information Technology. Organizers are looking to possible classes with a more intense structure, built into a class bell, and available for school credit. Until then, SUA students can attend the other 3 classes offered by CECH undergraduates over the course of this year which will include introductory lessons in programming, networking, and web development. (For more information and to register: https://sites.google.com/a/saintursula.org/suauc-tech-classes/)