Student Tech Teams Featured in a Student Run Demo Slam

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Of all the tools available to students and teachers, Google Hangouts is easily one of the most powerful in the Google apps suite. My introduction to Hangouts came back in May of 2013 by 7th grade social studies teacher Tracy Sockalosky. Since that initial video call, I have been fascinated by Hangouts as a means to connect “face to face” with friends, family, colleagues and members of my PLN from all across the world. Never mind the fact you can wear funny hats and apply cool effects, Hangouts lends itself perfectly to authentic learning experiences for my students, and can ultimately serve as a digital portfolio item.

Last year, in an effort to leverage the power of Hangouts, I created the “Help Desk Live” Google Hangout On Air program as part of the Student Technology Innovation and Integration course  at Burlington High School. The show was inspired by Kern Kelley who runs the Tech Sherpa Show with his student tech team in central Maine.

Help Desk Live Season 1 featured 14 episodes led primarily by my students. The nature of our show differed from Kern’s in the sense that we did not demonstrate the use of tools, “demo-slammish” style, rather we interviewed educational technology and business professionals. Overall, I’d consider Season One a success (our use of Hangouts as a learning tool was featured on Free Tech Tools For Teachers) however it was a lot of work on my part as the teacher.

Producing a Live Hangout On Air involves:

  • scheduling and logistics coordinationScreen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.55.18 PM
  • promoting the show via Twitter, blog, and Google+
  • prepping students to go live
  • writing show notes
  • selecting and researching guests
  • facilitating the conversation during the live call
  • handling technical issues during the call

the list goes on…

As I reflect on the first season of Help Desk Live, I realize there is room for a great deal of improvement for both me and my students; both from the technical side and the content of the show. My ultimate goal is to not be in the Hangout at all (although it may appear I like to be on camera) and have my students complete every single task associated with coordinating the broadcast. I’d also like our show to become a bit more like Kern’s and have students demonstrate the use of technology tools that will benefit students and teachers. The first episode of Season Two, an interview with Segway’s CEO Rod Keller, proves I may accomplish my goals sooner than anticipated. As further evidence of my students’ potential, this past Thursday my students independently facilitated an On Air broadcast. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but that’s not the goal. The goal is for them to have that authentic learning experience. And they did. Additionally, they had the opportunity to be pioneers.

My students, along with ten others throughout the state of Massachusetts and Maine participated in a student run demo slam. Each student(s) had the chance to be placed in the spotlight and demonstrate the use of a web tool or app in true Tech Sherpa fashion. Each student approached the demo with his or her unique style and to watch the students in action was quite inspiring. They were articulate, professional, and epitomized what it means to be a digital citizen. Despite the technical issues (which happens 9 times out of 10 in a Hangout) the students maintained their composure throughout the entire call and didn’t panic under the pressure of being live. I know that all of the students will improve if and when they participate in another demo slam…hopefully the next one will be some time in November so stay tuned!

I invite you, your students, and your leadership teams to watch these videos and see for yourself what a great opportunity our students had to connect, share, and learn from one another. If you’re inspired to bring Hangouts to your classroom, you can check out this excellent Google Hangouts Guide for Teachers created by the folks at Lee’s Summit R-7 School District.

As we continue to move through connected educator month, don’t forget that the most important reason we need to connect is to teach our students to do the same.

Take a look at the student run demo slam embedded below:

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