“Fantastic to see student work and what better advocates to use a resource in class than to hear from the students who are using them. It’s a great learning experience for the students involved as well. I know the team from my school (Thornton Academy, Saco, ME) discussed that one of our goals for next year would be to bring a group of students to NESS.”
The New England Student Showcase
I proposed the idea to place students in the spotlight at this year’s New England 1:1 Summit to Dennis Villano, Director of Instructional Technology of Burlington Public Schools, several months ago, when planning for this year’s conference began. Knowing what a huge advocate of student voice Dennis is, I was confident he would agree to add this new component to the Summit, and he did. Once he gave me the green light, I started to plan and organize. I decided to name this new initiative the New England Student Showcase and collaborated with two of my Help Desk students, Harsh and Amit, in the design of a NESS logo that was added to the New England 1:1 website. My vision for the event was to have students from all grade levels and content areas from all across New England attend the Summit along with their teachers, and showcase the work and projects they had completed using various technology tools. My intention in developing the event was not to just have students show off “cool” apps and web tools. The real purpose was to empower student voice and provide them with the opportunity to explain to attendees the skills and knowledge they had developed as a result of meaningful (and challenging) technology integration. Essentially, I wanted students to be the ones offering professional development to teachers. I think this type of PD is going to become a trend and perhaps over time, could align with the mission and vision of the Edcamp model.
My thought was that by offering this type of format, one in which teachers would be able to actually see a finished product created by a student and have one on one conversations with students about the learning and creation process, it would provide educators with a whole new level of inspiration and motivation to integrate technology into their own classrooms. We’ve all attended professional development conferences where educational theory and participant discussion is the focus. Sessions are led by educators, technology specialists, and educational administrators. That traditional model of PD can be valuable, it’s often necessary and helpful, but for me personally, there’s nothing like gaining the perspective of a student to help me improve. I get a great deal of inspiration when I am able to actually see student work and when I interact with and hear from my students. When I want to try a new app, web tool, activity, or project, often times before I even start, I share my ideas with my students and ask for their feedback. I tend to get better results, and my students end up learning more, when there is collaboration and when my students feel a sense of ownership over their learning. And learning is the key word here. A major takeaway from the Summit is that the focus in Burlington is on learning, content, and skills versus apps and devices. That was the consistent message throughout the duration of the Summit, along with the need for constant support and professional development before, during and after an initial 1:1 rollout.
Empowering Student Voice
Many colleagues I’ve talked with in and outside of the Burlington district agree that student voice is powerful and necessary. It’s exciting that more and more educators and administrators are adopting this philosophy, are taking strategic risks, aren’t afraid to fail and try again, and are giving students the chance to “teach the teachers.” On both days of the Summit, all who attended had the chance to see this in action. On Friday, during the Burlington school visits, there were students from our elementary, middle, and high school providing visitors with information about our 1:1 environment and the technology that they were using in their classrooms. On Saturday, during the Showcase, this happened on an even larger scale.
A Special Thank You
I knew that New England Showcase was going to be a success. The number of teachers and students who agreed to take time out of their Saturday to showcase their work gave me confidence that the NESS had the potential to be the highlight of the day, and based on the feedback we’ve received, many thought that it was. In the weeks and days leading up to the NESS I corresponded via email with the teachers and students who were attending and it was evident they were excited to take part in this unique opportunity. On Saturday morning, I watched the students and teachers arrive and set up their booths. I watched as many parents gathered to take pictures prior to the official start of the NESS and my confidence that it was going to be a great event grew even stronger. When the participants arrived and began interacting with the students, you could sense the excitement in the air and that’s when I was able to just sit back and let the students run the show. My expectations had officially been exceeded.
My colleague and friend, Johnathan Warner, captured the excitement of the NESS via Vine!
Thanks to the students and teachers from Burlington, Lynnfield, Duxbury, and Mendon-Upton, the educators and administrators who attended the Summit will go back to their own school communities with ideas and resources to share. It’s safe to say that all who attended are motivated and energized to move their schools forward in terms of technology integration. A huge thank you goes out to all the teachers who brought their students to the NESS including:
Patrick Murphy, Cindy Dunn, Heather Wood, Fox Hill Elementary, Burlington, MA Kelly Floyd, Paula Weldon, Rose Magliozzi, Heather Wood, Tara Olshaw, Val BurnsMemorial Elementary, Burlington, MA Kim Lynch, Francis Wyman Elementary, Burlington, MA Christina Chang, Gina Bauer, Shannon Janovitz, Burlington High School, Burlington, MA Nicole Kinney & Alex Caram, Summer Street Elementary School, Lynnfield, MA Liane D’Alessandro, Gabriel Landau & Noah Dalton (students), Lynnfield High School, Lynnfield, MA Katie Donovan & Ritamarie Benoit, Alden Elementary School, Duxbury, MA Alice Gentili, Miscoe Hill Middle School, Mendon-Upton, MA A big thank you to my Help Desk and Web 2.0 students for assisting with the high school tours, attending the Showcase, assisting with creating the Aurasma augmented reality experience, and serving on the Help Desk student panel.
Saturday’s Student Showcase was a first for Burlington and it’s possible the event will become a permanent part of the Summit. I am hopeful that if we offer the NESS again next year, that we will have schools from the rest of the New England states attend and continue to share and learn from each other. If you missed the conference, or want to revisit any part of the day, you can check out the archive on either the #NE1to1 Tagboard I created, or you can check out the much more detailed archive of the #NE1to1 that my colleague Tim Calvin curated. Finally, you can view the NESS Animoto below, curated from all the great pictures that were Tweeted during the event, and share it with your school community. And please, keep the conversation about technology integration in the classroom going and keep learning everyday!