Monday, 21 January 2013

BHS Help Desk: Learning by doing

BHS Help Desk Students with the MA Secretary of Edu

The Burlington High School Help Desk is about to embark on it’s fourth semester. Over the course of three semesters the “Student Technology Integration” Course - how it is phrased on transcripts and course selection catalogs, has gone through major changes since its incarnation. Each semester, the course has evolved from a basic “troubleshooting” focus, to creating tutorials, to connecting our student help with vast audience of educators and students. 

At least once a week I receive an email or phone call from another school about our course from all over the world. I’ve responded to each one and have hosted many questions during school visits along with my colleagues. More importantly, the students have responded and engaged with a variety of educators, administrators and professionals in education. In some instances, we used a Google Hangout to address a conference or an interview. The help desk students have worked at district professional development, the New England 1:1 Summit, The Google Apps for Education Summit, The MA Digital Publication Collaborative, after school workshops, and are on hand daily to assist with the technology needs of the entire district . Plus, they’ve presented at MassCUE 2012, The New England 1:1 Summit, entertained and enlightened the MA Secretary of Education and the Commissioner of Education, consulted with app and game developers such as Kuato Studios International, appeared on NPR’s Here and Now program,  and on June 1, 2013 they will organize, host and run their first EdCamp in Burlington. I’d say their resume fits into the authentic, purposeful assessment category. 

As our first semester of 2012 comes to an end, students will be presenting a TEDx-esque projects highlighting  something they’ve learned and researched throughout the duration of the course. And once again, the course will launch with new students in 2013 and a new paradigm for learning. In all four iterations of this course, it has never looked the same. Each semester, my colleague, Tim Calvin and I, reassess the course model, methods for teaching and learning, and how we want our students to connect to the Burlington community and beyond. We take our own learning styles and the learning paradigms of the 21st century student and apply them directly to this course. 

@jcasap @sarcasmserved @br0nak at the GAFE NE Summit
In 2013, the help desk will take on several new projects. The first item to tackle will be to design, organize and run a full day EdCamp conference. This conference will be held on Saturday, June 1 and all in education are welcome to attend for free. Not only will the students be putting on an EdCamp, but they will be presenting a session as well. And, we invite other student groups to attend and present during this EdCamp. 

Students will have to solicit sponsorships, giveaways, and orchestrate the entire conference infrastructure for the day. To my knowledge, this EdCamp endeavour is the first of its kind. Plus, I had attende Educon for several years at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA and witnessed and experienced students taking the the lead in planning and organizing. 

My other inspiration sparked from attending EdCamp Boston last spring. I noticed how many teachers brought their students to present. As I sat in one of the sessions, I wondered what a great experience this would be if a group of students put on an EdCamp. And invited their peers to connect and share as well as anyone involved in the education world. I anticipate a lot of work for the students involved in planning, but I also foresee many authentic skill sets developing as students work through the logistics of planning a full day conference on their own. 

Also, the help desk will be developing weekly broadcasts via Google Hangouts. Every week, students from the help desk will put together a script for a show that they will broadcast live via a Google hangout. This hangout will also be archived for those who cannot attend. This medium allows students to design engaging tutorials around applications, devices, and current trends in educational technology while expanding the reach of our audience. Plus, this gives students an authentic audience for feedback and assessment. 

Help Desk at MassCUE
Finally, the help desk will be developing training modules for new and emerging tech applications in education for anyone who wants to use them. The students will be developing original, training modules that feature videos and step-by-step, printable scripts for our most frequently used devices and applications. Again, this resource is not simply limited to our school, but available for everyone to access. We’re taking the concept of Khan Academy and focusing it directly on applications that are used throughout the district. 

Students will be challenged to find and create modules based on the demand of each application within our community. Each module will start with the basics and the user will work his or her way towards more advanced concepts in the application. Students will be constructing scripts, outlines and interactive media to accompany each module. In the end, these students will be creating an open educational resource for our community and beyond. What’s more, these modules will bear the name of each student. They are adding to their digital portfolio, while creating a sustainable resource for the Burlington community. 

This course was designed to be malleable. Both myself and my colleague, Tim Calvin, are constantly looking for ways to rethink our classroom, both in aesthetics and in the learning dynamic. Most recently, Tim incorporated a stand up desk in our help desk room and we’re tinkering with some other ideas for next semester. I guess what I hope my fellow educators get from this piece is that we should always be rethinking, remixing our classrooms. The options I developed and listed above can easily be blended into any core subject. It’s simply a matter of challenging one’s self to step outside his or her comfort zone each quarter, semester, or school year to try something new at the simple risk of failing. And that's a big component in this course: failing. But, removing the stigma so that when we fail, we treat it not as a lost cause, rather a learning opportunity. An opportunity from which many can learn. 

No comments: