Why Early Voting is So Important

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If you are a Massachusetts resident, you may have noticed something different about this year’s election: for the first time you can cast your ballot early. As part of a new early voter initiative, local voting locations will allow residents to cast their ballots between October 24 and November 4th.

This is huge news for democracy. A move by the state to pilot an early voting initiative could mean that officials are considering adding new voter legislation that will make early voting routine in Massachusetts. Adding early voting options will have an incredible impact on the future of American elections by making the democratic process more accessible to voters. In comparison to most European democracies, voting in the United States is significantly more difficult and voters turn out in lower numbers (only 57.5% of eligible voters voted in the 2012 election. That’s 93 million unheard voices!). Therefore, any action taken by the government to encourage people to vote is a progressive change.

For this legislation to come about, however, voters have to participate in the initiative to demonstrate interest in the project. If residents turn out in strong numbers to vote early, legislators will see that people want better voting conditions and will make the appropriate changes to policy. For students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, this initiative could mean fantastic news for increasing voting convenience. Until this project allowed Umass to facilitate four days of on-campus early voting, the University had not been a voting location since 2004. University members hope, however, that overwhelming support for the on-campus early voting site will encourage local officials to re-approve the University to be a voting location for future general elections.

As the last day to vote early on-campus is upon us, I hope to see everyone who has yet to vote at the polls tomorrow! Every vote is essential in a democracy, and by voting early you could help push voting legislation that will amplify the once silent voices of many others.

Why is the Social Media Conversation So Negative?

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Digital Citizenship EmulationAfter reading the blog post, “8 Ways Kids Are Using Instagram to Bully,” I remain perplexed as to why the conversation revolving around social media and its implications on the lives of teens remains a negative one. While the author’s citations of past incidents may be true, they provide no service whatsoever to counteracting cyber bullying, however, only perpetuate negative stereotypes surrounding the world of social media. Rather than provide a solution or effect positive change to the cited malicious behavior, the author participates in the culture of shaming social media: an action that only makes the internet space less safe for teens.

As I explain in my (Spanish) EdCamp Global Classroom Presentation, “Buscame por Google, Se Reto” (Google Me, I Dare You), degrading social media promotes negative use. In psychology, this phenomenon is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy- if you have a negative attitude, negativity will occur. Similarly, by constantly lecturing students, parents, and teachers about the harms of social platforms, students develop negative schemas for social media and learn to associate its use with malicious behavior. Therefore, I dare to ask: why is the conversation never positive?

Digital Citizenship SummitWell, that is quickly changing by thought-leaders eagerly following the footsteps of Dr. Marialice Curran. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Curran virtually several times, simultaneously creating a positive digital footprint as well as demonstrating 21st century interview skills as I hosted her on the Burlington High School’s live Google Hangout webinar, Help Desk Live. The only times I have met Dr. Curran face-to-face were at the nation’s first Digital Citizenship Summit, and again when she invited me to present at the first international Digital Citizenship Summit in England. In fact, the sole reason Dr. Curran and I met was because of my positive use of social media. After following my work avidly on Twitter and About.me, Dr. Curran was eager to speak with me and include student voice in her work with the DigCitSummits. As a direct result of leveraging social media to my professional advantage, through serving as a contributing author to the BHS Help Desk blog, Teachers With Apps, and my own blog, I have gained a digital reach of over 200,000 viewers in over 160 countries across 6 continents (82% of the globe), as well as been invited to speak in 4 countries across 3 continents, interning in digital content for EdTechTeacher, and even blogging for brands as renowned as Rosetta Stone.

Clearly my experience leveraging social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog) is taboo. But– dare I question the status quo again– why does it have to be? If we collectively divorce from the rhetoric of social media’s explicitly harmful nature, then we embrace the challenge to promote positive social media use in schools. Students can learn to leverage Twitter to build a global community of learners, use YouTube to share their content, connect with professionals via LinkedIn, and assert their voice through blogging. Through education, demonstration, and proactive conversation we can abolish cyber bullying- but we must first abolish our negative mentality.

Connecting Multilingual Students via #ECGC16

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Representing student voice at this year’s past EdCamp Global Classroom event was an absolute privilege. As my first publicly available Spanish presentation, I was a bit nervous as to how the night would turn out. However, gaining the support of my teachers, friends, and educators from around the would reassured me that the presentation would turn out well.

When I was initially presented with the opportunity to represent student voice at the #ECGC16 Event, I was trilled to be given a platform on which I could share my ideas with the Spanish-speaking world. As the majority of my presentations are in English, it was truly rewarding to know that my ideas for a reformed, more innovative student-centered classroom were reaching the Spanish and Hispanic demographics as well.

Thank you to all of those who tuned in to the presentation and shared your thoughts with me via Twitter. If you would like to check out my presentation, “Buscame por Google- Se Reto” (Google Me- I Dare You), please check out the YouTube Embed below.

 

On Being a Coca-Cola Scholarship Semi-Finalist

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Timmy Sullivan Coca-Cola Scholarship

A little over a month ago, I received the incredible news that I moved on to the semi-final round of the Coca-Cola Scholarship! In its 27th year, the Coca-Cola Scholarship generously awards $20,000 scholarships to 150 deserving high school seniors across the United States. Beyond the enormous amount of scholarship, Coca-Cola scholars are indoctrinated into a community of prestigious individuals, forming life-long relationships with young entrepreneurs, performers, researchers, visionaries and dreamers, all with the power to change the world.

The reason I am so excited about moving forward in the scholarship is not just because I have been distinguished among over 87,000 applicants, but because of the potential a brand as renowned as Coca-Cola has seen in me. My efforts to reform public education, to bring student voice to global attention, and to promote digital citizenship have not gone unnoticed; rather, they are receiving an investment from the moguls of entrepreneurship, marketing, branding, and customer satisfaction.

For my birthday last year, one of my best friends bought me a book on the history of Coca-Cola’s marketing. Opening up this treasure was like uncovering hidden secrets, long forgotten but forever set in stone. In the book, an idea was presented that forever changed my outlook on Coke’s brand:

“Coca-Cola is not about the drink; it has never been about the drink. It is about making people happy.”

I began to notice just how happy Coca-Cola makes people- it is everywhere! During my exchange trip to Spain, my host family would ornament our dinner table with glasses of Coca-Cola. While in Granada, I stumbled across several Coca-Cola bars, serving refreshing drinks to tourists. Even yesterday, during a conversation about the scholarship with DigCitSummit co-founder Dr. Marialice Curran, she started singing “¡Una Coca-Cola y un sonrisa!”

To be recognized for my contribution to social change and educational reform by a world-renowned brand synonymous with happiness is an honor.

As I edit my application in preparation for the upcoming deadline, I decided to enjoy a classic bottle of Coca-Cola, allowing my mind to wander back to the origins of Coke. Once upon a time, this brand was just an idea by someone with enough passion to pursue it endlessly. After unrelenting dedication, unparalleled branding and marketing, and a community strong enough to bring Coca-Cola to every corner of the world, the team behind Coke is inspiring and empowering a new generation of young entrepreneurs with the same passion. I sit back, honored, and read over my application with “a Coca-Cola and a smile.”

Timmy Sullivan Coca-Cola Scholarship

 

Help Bring Students to #DigCitSummitUK !

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After being the first student speaker at the inaugural Digital Citizenship Summit, I am excited to announce that I have been invited to present at the first international digcitsummit at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom on January 23, 2016.

#DigCitSummitUK has been making some incredible waves, proving that when you work together on a common goal, greatness happens. Last week we had a thunderclap that made over 600,000 Twitter impressions, and we are building even more momentum to get the event trending on Twitter! Not only are we making a remarkable digital impact, but we are working on the ground as well. So far, over 7 unique countries from 3 different continents will be represented at the event. #DigCitSummitUK has truly evolved into an inspiring global event working to facilitate conversation on safe, savvy, and ethical use of social media for students. Read the rest of this entry »

Green Screening for the CustomerBloom Scholarship

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Timmy Sullivan Green ScreenEveryone should have access to a green screen.

For the second time since its installment in Burlington High School’s lower library, I used the green screen for an iMovie project. Why it has taken me so long to do so, I have no idea; it is an incredible piece of technology. Since I frequently pass through the lower library, as well as use the space for several club meetings, I often see students using the green screen to travel through time and space. For example, students making cooking videos for Italian are transported across the Atlantic, suddenly in an authentic Italian home; physics students take a rocket ship to space, where they are sucked up by black holes; history classes attend historic events, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Last week I used the green screen to enter the CustomerBloom Scholarship Program. During Burlington’s Thanksgiving break, I dedicated some of my free time to using the space to record a video of myself answering the question, “what motivates you?” I then edited my video footage using iMovie. Again, why it has taken me so long to use iMovie, I have no idea.

Using both pieces of technology with little prior experience was exciting. I had no manual to go off of, no experience to tap in to. I was exploring. I got to experiment with all of the cool features of iMovie; I played with volume control, green screen effects, music, and overall video editing. Using the green screen was also very enjoyable; I was nervous at first that it would not work, to then be pleasantly surprised at its power.

My overall takeaway from filming my video is that technology is a powerful tool for content creation. I know many students who aspire to have a future in film and advertising, for whom the implementation of green screening technology is an incredible vehicle for research, practice, and design. In addition to serving the few who hope to enter the film and advertising business, many other students find great enjoyment from green screening. Every time I see students using the tool, they are always smiling. Who can blame them- it’s fun! Tools like the green screen are essential in fostering classroom creativity and inspiring students to think outside the box.

If you are interested in watching my scholarship video, it is embedded below:

 

My Very First TEDx Talk: It’s MY Education!

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It’s MY Education!

Timmy SullivanOn March 23, 2015, Burlington High School was the site of the first ever TEDxYouth@BHS TEDx conference. An event co-created by Nikhil Thakkar and Jenn Scheffer, the TEDxYouth@BHS conference brought students, educators, and professional speakers from across the country to present their ideas worth spreading.

In my talk, “It’s MY Education,” I discuss the need for public education reform, the changing role of today’s educator, and the benefits of creating personalized learning experiences for students. Sharing my passion for languages, culture, and communication, advocate for integrating technology across the curriculum to expand the walls of the classroom and to further personalize the learning experience.

My talk can be found in the YouTube embed below, as well as the manuscript, just below the video. Feedback, as always, is welcome!

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