Growing up, I would always find myself eager to talk with strangers. This, naturally, was a bit of a worry to my parents. But why is it so bad to talk to community members in a local coffee shop? Or converse with like-minded individuals online? What was the harm in sitting next to someone new in the library and striking up a conversation? Obviously talking to complete strangers may pose a threat, but I found my experiences genuinely enriching. The men and women of whom I had the privilege to talk with provided interesting outlooks on culture such as food, books, and music. Others provided interesting sociological observations. But all offered something unique. Something new. Something I would not find from people I frequently spoke with. I realized once, after talking with a gentleman in a record store, that I was passionate about communication. Reflecting on this, I found that communicating ideas with others has driven me my entire life. Whether it be through theatre, through literature, music, or the many conversations with unexpected friends, I was always eager to learn and to share. Technology has truly expanded my ability to connect with others. Social Media is a fantastic medium for collaborating on projects, discussing a wide range of topics, sharing work and ideas, and learning from others. I am now able to talk with many more individuals all over the world. My coffee shop conversations have evolved into Twitter chats and Google Hangouts with professionals across the globe. I am currently collaborating on many technology projects and business initiatives with intellectuals from a variety of places. I credit my ability to create and foster these connections to Burlington High School, and the innovative teaching styles encouraged there.
Burlington High is a 1:1 iPad school. Each student is administered an iPad, and the rest is up to them. This incredible innovation has redefined the classroom and the way in which students learn. Not only has student motivation increased, but overall creativity has overwhelmingly expanded. When Burlington launched its iPad Initiative, there was a demand for technical support, classroom innovation, and general leadership. The natural solution was to utilize student genius and design a course which paralleled that of Apple’s Genius Bar. This course was to be called Help Desk. I am privileged to be part of the student-led Help Desk course at Burlington, because it offers a truly individual experience. Help Desk is structured as a business and technology course, focussing on technology innovation and business management. Students enrolled in the course are responsible for integrating technology into the classroom, instructing educators and students on digital learning tools, conducting meetings with professionals in the technology, business, and education industries, and modeling digital citizenship for the community. Help Desk is run throughout the school day, and available to any student or teacher in need of technical support. During the hours in which students are not walking into the Help Desk, we are working on a variety of projects. Each student is responsible for maintaining a globally recognized blog. These blogs are a personal reflection of our journey with technology, as well as an extension of our classroom portfolio. We are encouraged to research the latest innovations in educational technology and document and reflect upon them. We identify the best digital resources for classroom efficiency and design tutorials and screencasts on different apps. One of my favorite aspects of Help Desk is our Individual Learning Endeavor. This project is influenced by Google’s 20% time, in which students donate 20% of their course time to a personal endeavor. This is an exceptionally brilliant classroom innovation, as students are allowed a new type of academic ownership. We are creatively responsible for deciding our topic, designing a personal curriculum, and developing self assessments. Students are frequently involved in communicating with business professionals and collaborating with businesses in the community. The 20% time project is a proactive initiative that places students in the business world rather than merely simulating it.
Help Desk ultimately redefines what it means to be a student. Instead of consuming content, we are creating applications. Rather than listening to lectures, we are presenting at technology conferences. Curriculums have evolved into something which we design. Work is requested instead of delegated. And to be a student has matured into being a leader.