Guest Bloggers

The Help Desk blog is pleased to feature guest posts by various people and organizations in and outside of the Burlington High School community. Although guest posts will cover a wide variety of topics, every post will demonstrate the power of learning in a connected, global society. Are you a student, educator, parent, administrator, entrepreneur, developer, creative thinker, change agent, innovator, consultant, speaker, writer, or disruptor? We want to hear from you! If you are interested in being featured as a guest blogger, please complete the contact form at the bottom of this page. 

Image Credit: Gerd Altmann

Image Credit:
                       Gerd Altmann

“Selfie Nation”

Editor’s Note: A special thanks to guest blogger Amy Williams, a journalist from California, mother of two teenagers, and positive parenting activist for sharing her perspective on the latest social media craze: the Selfie. A recent episode of 20/20 highlighted the growing trend and uncovered the extreme lengths some people go to in order to achieve “selfie perfection.” 

Post authored by: Amy Williams

Selfies are no longer just part of the MySpace days – they are now the norm for (many) preteens and teens (and even adults) all across social media. Although many parents see them as just a fad that is nothing to be concerned about, it might be time to look a little deeper at this current trend.

Over one million selfies are taken each day and 91% of teens have taken a selfie at some point. It’s safe to say that this is a trend that isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. However, the root of these photos isn’t all just fun and games. Research shows that preoccupation with selfies might actually be a visible indicator of a lack of confidence or sense of self. Perhaps this is something to look into and discuss with your own children?

Take a look at the infographic below, provided by Teen Safe, and the next time you seen your teen snapping a selfie, it wouldn’t hurt to start a conversation about what they really think about the trend.

Selfies - Good, Bad, Ugly

Help Desk Welcomes Sue Scheff as our first guest blogger of 2014!

nationally recognized author & cyber advocate Sue Scheff

nationally recognized author & cyber advocate Sue Scheff

Editor’s Note: 

I am pleased to feature nationally recognized author, parent advocate and family Internet safety advocate Sue Scheff as the first Help Desk guest blogger of 2014. Sue has been featured on ABC News, 20/20, The Rachel Ray Show, Dr. Phil, CBS Nightly News with Katie Couric, Lifetime, Fox News, CNN Headline News and more. Her work has also been featured by the Huffington Post, Forbes, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. A complete list of Sue’s articles can be found here. Sue’s guest post emphasizes the importance of integrating digital citizenship education in our schools and comes at the perfect time. Starting tonight, and occurring every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month from 7:00 to 8:00 pm EST, Digital Citizenship Twitter chats are back! I am thrilled to be a #digcit Twitter chat moderator and to be joining a team of passionate educators. I am especially excited to have Sue joining tonight’s chat and discussing this important topic with educators, administrators, parents, and best of all…STUDENTS! I hope you will be able to join tonight’s conversation as we discuss the role of social media in schools and how our students can build a positive digital presence. 

Guest post: Sue Scheff

Teens, Online Reputation and Social Media

We are becoming a broken record as we try to explain to our kids what they post online can potentially affect their future. There is no rewind online, it is that simple. The Internet is a wonderful educational tool but can also work against us if not properly used. A reference that can be used is, the Internet is like a gun, you have to learn to use it responsibly. That statement is meant to be strong — the moment you become a digital citizen, you need to behave with the same respect you treat others offline. The dangers of technology, especially for kids and teens, have been in the media for the years.

Whether it is cyberbullying or Internet predators, our country is not a stranger to horrific incidents that can happen to our youth. For teens looking forward to a higher education and especially those in need of scholarships to help them finance college, they need to think before they post especially on their social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This means being cyber-savvy in social media.

Recently, the New York Times ran a story that probably woke-up many teens about how social media can affect their future college prospects. “They Loved Your GPA, Then They Saw Your Tweets,” describes how your keystrokes matter. Do you know what your digital footprint is saying about you? Social media today is part of life. Learning how to maintain your life both online and off is part of preparing for your future. You are the one that is in control or your keystrokes and what you decide to post or comment on, however you have to also be in control of who is posting and commenting on your social media pages. Learn to control your privacy settings and keep them updated frequently.

Building your online presence starts the moment you are given your first keypad and email address. You are now entering the world wide web – proceed with caution, it is a wonderful place, and can be your best friend and your worst nightmare at the same time. Before you enter into cyberspace, chances are good your parents have given you a foundation of treating people with respect and having manners. This behavior should be the same online –treat others how you want to be treated, whether it is online or off. Whether you are posting a picture or making a comment, pause and think about the long lasting effects. Is it something you are comfortable with your grandparents viewing? Building your online reputation starts early. Maintaining it through social media is what will separate you from the other college applicants.

Where will you begin?

Obviously many teens are already members of the social media world and members of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Now it is all about managing it appropriately to build your virtual image. Your digital real estate should begin with free blogs! WordPress and Blogger offer user friendly blogs with many different templates, colors, layouts and designs. You can create your own personality with these blog sites. Best of all, you can start showcasing your attributes!

What will you blog about?

• Hobbies and interests: Do you have a favorite app or game? Do you love dance or sports? You can tell your readers your  favorite teams.
• Movie and book reviews: Have you seen any good movies? Read any good books? Post a picture of the book cover or a trailer of the movie.
• Community Service work, post pictures of your contributions.
• Visit a local restaurant? Would you recommend anything from the menu?
• Vacations, travels: talk about places you have visited.
• Summer Camps: Did you attend a summer camp or participate in a teen travel event? Share your experiences. What would you recommend and why?
• Won any awards? Share them—be proud.

Final Thoughts for Families: 

Now let’s talk money. Especially in today’s economy many families and students are applying for as many scholarships as they can. Recent reports confirm college admissions representatives are also using students’ social media presence to determine whether they deserve the scholarship, as you read in the NYT’s article above. Facebook is obviously the largest social networking site that many use. Isn’t it time to encourage your teen to sit down and clean it up? Remember, unfortunately all your posts and comments on your friends’ pages are still lingering in cyberspace too. So now is the time to seriously stop and think before you post that silly comment. Is it really worth a scholarship? And remember parents, you may think because your child’s Facebook is set on private you are safe. Don’t be fooled. If it’s online, it’s usually public information – remember your child is friends with friends that may not have their privacy settings set as high.

Remember students–don’t risk losing a scholarship or admission to the college of your choice for a dumb remark online or a compromising photo! Start today building your digital real estate. Own, create it and make it your something that will impress your future employer or college admissions. Pause before your post, you won’t regret it. Keystrokes matter.

Watch this video – it is worth the 5 minutes:

“16 year old Burlington Student Uses Technology to Educate Thousands Every Week”

My name is Nikhil Thakkar. I am a 16 year old junior at Burlington High School. In December 2012, I founded the free, bilingual, alcohol and drug education program, SAFE, and currently utilize technology to educate about 27,000 students each week. I have been a presenter at TEDx and my program, to date, has been implemented in 5 countries.

I started my program SAFE for two reasons (you can read about these on my blog). I wanted to use engaging methods to educate adolescents about the dangers of drinking and drugging as well as about the importance of leadership in their communities. I knew that if I created a PowerPoint presentation, students would get bored, and “zone out” before the presentation was over, which would mean they would not be reaching their maximum learning potential. To address this, I decided to use exciting activities and stimulating discussion to foster growth among students; I have also integrated Twitter into the presentation. However, I wanted to make a bigger impact by connecting with more students, so I decided to expand my program with schools in other countries, using technology to do so.

With SAFE, I have grown from doing 1 presentation for 9 students in a middle school to doing weekly presentations for 27,000 people in schools that have adopted my program across 5 countries. I realized that in order to make a significant difference, I would be more than a presenter; I would be a friend. So I started to make a personal connection with students in my presentation and used different activities for different age groups. Each presentation was recorded with my iPad in a mini studio I set up in my basement. Because of technology, students are not only more engaged, but actually interested in learning. This hunger for knowledge that students have has really been the fuel in the expansion of SAFE.

If you had asked me 1 year ago if SAFE would ever be what it is today, I would have said you were crazy. Now, a year after its initiation, I am overjoyed that I have the opportunity to reach students each week and help shape who they will grow up to be. It makes me even happier to know that they actually care about learning and that they are able to do so in an environment that is applicable to their lives. I have grown quite a bit this past year. I have learned the importance of taking the valuable time that life has given us, and doing something incredible that not only means something to you, but will also help others.

Because of SAFE, I was recently given the incredible opportunity to present at a Tedx Event in Madrid, Spain; I was stunned when I got invited to do 4 more talks in subsequent months. My hope is that other kids may get inspired to do good for the world, and recognize that they too can achieve their dreams. I want to remind them that if they have a passion for something, they should follow it, no matter what obstacles they may face. I would love to share ideas about my experiences as well as yours with technology in education. I always love hearing other’s comments on SAFE or about their projects as well. I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn and collaborate with you on your project. You can follow me on Twitter at @iNik2 and learn more about the program at my blog Hope to talk to you soon.

Nikhil Thakkar BHS Class of 2014

Nikhil Thakkar
BHS Class of 2014

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