On Wednesday, December 3rd, I was privileged to speak in front of educators and technology integrators about Burlington High School’s Help Desk: a student-run genius bar. The presentation was held in New Hampshire at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference. Here, hundreds of technology educators came to attend various conferences and adopt ways to integrate technology into their curriculums.
Ken Shelton, an Apple Distinguished and Google Certified educator, was the keynote speaker for the event. Ken introduced his idea that students and educators must embrace failure in order to learn. His idea is an amazing one, and one that we got to discuss with other educators. It was interesting to see the ways in which we all have failed and what our initial reactions were. This emphasized Ken’s point. When we fail, we feel ashamed, isolated, embarrassed, and therefore do not want to continue with that task. Students feel the same emotions as they explore new subject areas. Often students feel isolated by failure, and will automatically prevent themselves from learning the content. Ken suggests that as educators, we need to encourage failure and teach students what it really means: learning. Ken relates that his own classroom is not referred to by students as “Mr. Shelton’s classroom”, rather, “our learning endeavor” because they experience new content, new ideas, and new failures together. Ultimately, the keynote presentation offered me the unique perspective that mistakes as evidence of learning.
After the keynote presentation, I was given the opportunity to present how Burlington Public Schools utilize student genius to inspire the community. Currently, BHS’s Help Desk is in year four, continuing to educate students on digital citizenship, task management, technology integration, and customer relations. The course does more than simply teach technology, which can be taught to most anyone. Instead, it prepares students for post secondary opportunities as well as creating social leaders. Help Desk students demonstrate core innovation skills, or the “4 Cs”: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. When a student or teacher has an issue, one of the Help Desk members is assigned to evaluate the situation by troubleshooting, describe the problem and solution, and work to correct what is wrong.
Another aspect of our Genius Bar is the support of foundational apps and websites, and integrating them into the classroom. Burlington High School is a Google Apps For Education school, and most of student collaboration is completed through Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Classroom. Aside from these essential efficiency tools, Burlington High utilizes note taking apps such as Notability, movie making tools like iMovie, and WordPress blogs to publicize students’ work.
As a recent member of the Help Desk, I am amazed at how much opportunity the course offers. In a short time I have acquired international blog viewers, participated in online Twitter chats with educators, presented at technology conferences, connected with professional integrators interested in my work, participated in app consulting, and developed iOS apps waiting to be published on the app store! Our audience of educators were captivated by the opportunities created by students. We are privileged to be able to explore, innovate, debate, analyze, and design technology. It is gratifying to then take our knowledge and tech, present, consult, and network with educators globally.
Following the conference, I was able to engage with educators on a more intimate level, both digitally and personally. Attendees of the presentation were communicating with me about our ideas via Twitter. This was amazing because I was able to answer any unresolved questions, as well as network via Twitter for future events. Educators and I have connected so that we are both valuable resources, able to be reached if either of us wished to discuss innovation or needs technological references. I was able to get feedback on my presentation to improve for future events, as well as inherit ways other districts utilize technology to the fullest. I was also privileged to speak with educators in person, discussing my individual endeavors as well as technicalities of the iPad and our 1:1 district.
I learned an incredible amount at the Christa McAullife Technology Conference, both about technology and about myself. I eagerly await future interactions with the educators I met on Wednesday. They all offer a unique perspective to technology in the classroom and how to most effectively motivate students. I encourage fellow educators to connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn to discuss further questions or issues, talk about Burlington’s 1:1 community, or share experiences.