Video: Kimberly Paynter for WHYY/NewsWorks
Johnson’s face lights up as he begins his talk about tigers, whales, and other creatures, and the habitats in which they live. Johnson, who said he wants to go to college or do job training after high school, is especially excited about this presentation because it matches the senior project he will soon do at the Philadelphia Zoo.
“I have that passionate on mammals,” said Johnson. “And what I’m going to do there, I’m going to research on mammals, I will have some photos about it, and write about each type of mammal, what I know.”
Johnson is one of nine students in an autistic support class at Southern led by special education teacher Michele McKeone. McKeone, who has been teaching for four and a half years, has incorporated digital media into her class as a way to help students develop essential life skills that will help them transition to independence, while also learning math, English, science, and other basic subjects.
“District wide, the life skills curriculum is focused on early intervention,” said McKeone, who graduated from the University of the Arts with a digital media degree. “Once students go through the early intervention and come to me, [I have ask myself] what do they need to really pursue their independence and transition from high school to the next step, whether it be vocational training or a university setting.
McKeone said she does a lot of research on job-ready skills, ““That’s why I focus on technology,” she said. “For example, my students, even if they’re going to go through a vocational rehabilitation center, they need to know email, how to send a resume, how to upload that resume to an email, change that resume to different file formats, or create a brand or social networking profile for themselves. They have to understand all the social rules and hidden intricacies that are involved in navigating the digital world.”