Kaz Akbar: From Training the Future Wizards of Technology to Well-rounded Private Montessori Schools
A top the list of all the things the public school system was hard-pressed to provide in the past, up-to-date teaching in technology was glaring earlier in the decade. Keeping up with changing equipment demands and necessary teacher training has been a rearguard action the past several years in the schools, a flailing effort to stay abreast of a computerized society that keeps whizzing ahead.
Kaz Akbar, former school teacher in the Greater Toronto Area is among those who started his own summer camps and after-school programs to address the need. In the late 1990's, Kaz Akbar left the public school system where he also taught computers to become director of MindTech Schools, which combine academic and technology learning.
Kaz Akbar set up a full-day Montessori program by day and then camps at all times regular schools are on holiday, including Christmas, March break and the summer, in addition to after-school and weekend programs throughout the year. Kaz Akbar developed his ideas for MindTech while observing the challenges of teaching technology in the public school system.
"You've got a huge generation gap in the teaching staff," Akbar observes. "There's a whole new surge of teachers coming into the system who are very enthusiastic about using the technology and you've got an older generation of teachers that are almost phobic about it."
Kaz Akbar notes that sectors ranging from robotics, telecommunications and space travel to Internet use, graphics and animation are being transformed and are becoming so increasingly expensive to afford that kids are going to have a struggle to pick up the required basic skills during their school years or through the public education system.
"We know that the kids are starving for this kind of learning," says Akbar, whose MindTech incorporates a full-day Montessori school during the academic year for families who want it, along with after-school programs and summer camp. "The whole idea is really to get them started in the summer and then continue with the after-school program," he adds. "Those children that attend our regular day school will benefit tremendously throughout the year."
Now, with three locations in Markham, Ontario, MindTech offers summer day camp on a week-by-week basis, with such activities as sports, nature walks and music lessons added to the academic and technology learning. Programs are half and full days, for kids from pre-school ages to 12.
Kaz Akbar insured that as kids progressed to using some of the more sophisticated multimedia courseware, programs included such areas as biomedical technologies, space technologies, flight technologies and simulators, computer-aided publishing, electronic communications, graphics and animation and Web page design. "Both in areas of Montessori and Technology, the kids are teaching a lot of the curriculum to themselves and we find they are really able to handle the material," says Akbar.
Summer camp may not be a phrase that immediately conjures up robotics and computer-aided design in the minds of most parents. But Kaz Akbar found that kids actually have as much fun learning about these as they do kicking a ball. Enhancing the educational development of their kids makes the fun particularly valuable to the parents.