Riverfront class builds new student opportunities

Rebecca Turner, left, and Jordan Bailey, both 16, work on a class project in their IT 102 class at Riverfront Christian School in Front Royal. Josette Keelor/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — The information technology classroom at the Riverfront Christian School in Front Royal looked like an emergency room for computers as students pried open Windows XP machines, removing and cataloguing various parts for later.

But the students in Elizabeth Coffey’s IT 102 class had no intention of reviving the disassembled computers. That task would fall to younger students in the IT 101 class, scheduled for their own lesson later that day.

Empty computer casings in one hand and “Family Feud” game money in the other, each would need to rebuild their computers from parts that older student vendors priced after calling around to stores like Staples and Best Buy.

“I want them to be able to be conscious of what parts go into the computer,” Coffey said.

If their computer is missing screws or a ribbon cable or its memory unit, they’ll need to know it.

Jordan Bailey, 16, uses a Bluetooth laser projection keyboard to log onto a tablet while Julia Turner, 14, looks on. Josette Keelor/Daily

At Riverfront, where kindergarteners are learning keyboarding skills and high school students are providing tech support for the community, the technology department is booming.

Twice as big as it was last year, the IT 102 class is now two-thirds girls — “a good thing,” Coffey said.

Computer technology used to lure in more boys, she said, but now students are seeing how it can benefit them across a variety of career paths.

Rebecca Turner, 16, handles antivirus and Windows 7 software installation.

Her 14-year-old sister Julia Turner repairs laptops, taking machines apart in layers and troubleshooting problems like replacing motherboards, which run at about $180 before repair costs.

Julia Turner, 14, looks at a computer she disassembled for her IT 102 class at Riverfront Christian School in Front Royal. Josette Keelor/Daily

“But, see,” Coffey said, “she would be able to do the service herself, so that would save the service cost for her.”

“That’s what I want to try to get these kids to understand, that they can buy the part and replace it themselves and that will save them money in the long run,” she said.

When Rebecca and Julia took IT 101 in consecutive years, they knew almost nothing about computers, and Rebecca said it was daunting at first learning how computers work.

“Now we all know basically everything,” she said. “… It wasn’t hard to learn, once you got the hang of it.”

“I think everyone should actually have the knowledge of [it], if they can,” she said.

Gena Boice, 15, was also new to computer technology when she took her first IT class, but has now basically built a complete system for another Riverfront teacher.

“Technology’s advancing itself day by day and to learn all the new stuff, it’s actually a lot of fun … especially when we get to take apart the computers,” she said.

Though technically part of the school’s STEM program of science, technology, engineering and math courses, Coffey said the IT classes foster critical thinking and troubleshooting lessons to help her students in whatever career field they choose.

“That’s something that you can’t read in a book. You need to actually experience it,” she said.

An apprenticeship program for sophomores, juniors or seniors who complete the IT 102 class helps students put their skills into practice while also maintaining the school’s computer lab each day.

Coffey also started a new $1,000 scholarship this year to help one or more seniors with the cost of supplies for college. Donations to the Biggs/Johnson Technology Scholarship Program, named for Coffey’s two late grandmothers, can be delivered to Riverfront Christian School in care of Liz Coffey, Technology Department. Checks should indicate the donation is for the scholarship, rather than the technology department itself.

The school also accepts donations of all technology, except for CRT desktop monitors, which costs the school extra to recycle. Anything they receive will help educate students.

“I think it’s really great,” Rebecca Turner said, “and you can’t do this anywhere else.”

Other classes might offer worksheets as part of their lessons, she said. “But they won’t give you computers that you can actually take apart.”

“I think it’s really great that I got the opportunity.”

Contact the school at 55 E Strasburg Road, Front Royal, or at 540-635-8202.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com