Friday, April 10th was Burlington Public Schools annual New England 1:1 Summit and the second annual New England Student Showcase sponsored by the BPS EdTech Team. Once again, the focus of this professional development event was exactly where it should be: on student learning.
This year’s event was held at three different locations in the district; Burlington High School, Marshall Simonds Middle School, and Francis Wyman Elementary School. Offering three different locations allowed attendees to personalize their learning experience based on the specific type of 1:1 environment they wished to see. The event began with a Q and A keynote panel followed by classroom tours and the Student Showcase. This year’s showcase, like last year’s Summit, featured students representing other 1:1 or BYOD districts in Massachusetts. Students (and their teachers) from Shrewsbury, Hopkinton, Reading, Hamilton-Wenham, and Bishop Feehan came to Burlington to share their digital creations and articulated how using technology impacts their learning. The showcase was by far the most exciting part of the Summit. It allowed visitors to truly understand the impact 1:1 environments have on student learning. I had the pleasure of speaking with a young lady from the Shrewsbury Innovation Team and learned how she used Explain Everything to create a cell analogy project for one of her science classes. This was just one of the many types of personalized learning experiences shared by the students who attended.
Students from Campbell High School in Litchfield, NH attended the NE 1:1 Summit
The Lower Library of Burlington High School, the location of the Showcase, was bustling with conversations between students, teachers, administrators, technology directors, and school board members. It was an incredibly meaningful learning experience for everyone involved. Students who showcased their digital creations underscored to attendees what can happen when they are given choices to demonstrate their learning. It was refreshing to see a group of students in attendance from Campbell High School in Litchfield, NH (ironically where I began my teaching career!) along with a team of teachers and administrators. Campbell is considering a technology rollout and wants to ensure that their students play a role in the decision-making process. Very smart of Campbell indeed! Involving students in your technology initiative is a consistent message sent by the entire BPS Edtech team not just during our Summit but at every event we host throughout the year. The BPS Edtech team believes students should play a role in the 1:1 planning process and actively support technology initiatives as the needs of the school community evolve. This happens in Burlington through our student run Help Desk programs. Students play a significant support role regarding technology integration in Burlington and their contributions are appreciated by our entire community. They are go-to people throughout the day for any student or teacher needing assistance with technology. We have a culture where students are given authentic leadership opportunities and this was evident at the BHS Summit.
Cat Hoyt, BHS senior and member of the Help Desk, served on the keynote panel and shared from a student perspective what it’s like to be a technology leader at BHS. Throughout the Q & A session, several questions were directed specifically to Cat. This proves many districts are interested in understanding how technology is impacting a student’s education. Cat offered her candid thoughts about 1:1 teaching and learning and as always, showcased her leadership and professionalism. One attendee actually said to me, “she could run this whole thing herself.” I couldn’t agree more. My hope is that student involvement in professional development events for educators becomes the norm rather than the exception. Our job as educators and administrators is to meet the needs of our learners. Listening to what works for them in terms of technology in the classroom is essential if we are to provide them with the best, most relevant education possible.
The BPS Edtech Team hopes the Student Showcase continues to grow. It’s an authentic way for educators to learn about the impact technology has on student learning, but it serves an even greater purpose. Events like the Student Showcase are real world networking, leadership, collaboration, and public speaking experiences for the students who participate. These are necessary skills for any career path and presenting at the NESS is an impressive resume builder. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the teachers and students of Shrewsbury, Hamilton-Wenham, Bishop Feehan, Hopkinton, and Reading for taking time out of their schedules to join us in Burlington. Your contributions made the event a huge success and we hope you will return next year!