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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Burlington High School Goes Live

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas on Free Technology for Teachers. This is a guest post from Jenn Scheffer.

Since January, the Burlington High School student-run Help Desk has been integrating Google Hangouts Live On Air into the curriculum. As the new Instructional Technology Specialist at Burlington, one of my goals for the program was to leverage the power of Hangouts, empower student voice, and connect my students with a global audience.

We’ve aired eleven episodes so far and it has been a rewarding learning experience, both for me and my students. The weekly broadcasts, occurring each Friday and lasting approximately thirty minutes, provide students with an authentic learning experience, and while each show has been successful, there are quite a few logistics that go on behind the scenes to make the episodes possible. The first step in creating our show, which we named Help Desk Live, involved students creating our own YouTube channel as well as our own page on Google+. Students also collaborated to develop a logo for the show as well as a new category on our blog called Help Desk Live. Each episode is scheduled in advance as a Live Hangout On Air and is made public. Episodes are promoted several days in advance via Twitter and the Help Desk blog. A schedule of upcoming episodes is also created using Google Docs. This document is made public and it lists the guest, show hosts, topic, day and time of the episode and features show notes.

Producing a Hangout On Air
The production process of a Help Desk Live episode starts with the identification of a topic and guest. Over the past eleven weeks, topics have centered around several trending educational topics including digital citizenship, social media in the classroom, student blogging, Google Glass in education, augmented reality, and student-run tech teams. Most guests are members of my professional learning network (one is my former student!) and were contacted and booked to appear on the show either via Twitter, email, or a phone call. Booking guests using social media has shown students how a tool like Twitter can be used for professional networking and connecting with industry experts.

Beyond networking, and booking “talent,” students have learned how to coordinate the logistics of a live broadcast, developed their interviewing skills, and understand how to conduct themselves professionally in a high-pressure situation (going Live can be quite nerve-wracking!). Help Desk students have rotated hosting episodes and conduct research on the guests to prepare for the interview. Students have also contributed to the development of interview questions and during the episode itself, students must be active listeners and use their critical thinking skills to keep the conversation going.

The Future of Help Desk Live
We plan to broadcast fourteen episodes total for season one of Help Desk Live (14 for 2014) and for next year, my goal is to have students produce episodes independently from start to finish. I also plan to have students utilize more of the features in Hangouts including the Screen Share and Q & A option. Lastly, I hope to have several guests on each episode at a time (ultimately a panel of 10 guests would be ideal) and bring to the forefront educational issues that are student-driven. In terms of learning goals, I know students will produce even higher quality shows in 2014-2015, as they will have an archive of fourteen past episodes which they can critique (my performance as a host included) and determine how each aspect of the show can be improved.

Students Learning from Students
One of the most exciting episodes of the first season of Help Desk Live was episode 6. In this show, we had the opportunity to talk with Paige Woodard, a senior at Franklin Community High School in Franklin, Indiana and a member of Don Wettrick’s Innovations class. Paige has been nominated for a Bammy award in the student voice cateogry. From my perspective, and I think many teachers would agree, this episode was one of the best because it was students learning from students. Education is shifting so much so in the 21st century that the lines between students and teachers is becoming more and more blurred. We are now at the point where we are all learning together and this particular episode underscores that educational paradigm shift.


Jenn Scheffer, M.Ed. (@jlscheffer) is the Instructional Technology Specialist at Burlington High School and has thirteen years of teaching experience at the secondary level. Jenn’s background is in teaching technology, marketing, and business management courses. Prior to becoming an educator, Jenn was the Assistant Director of Admission at Southern New Hampshire University. Jenn also serves as the co-moderator to the Digital Citizenship Twitter chats held every second and fourth Wednesday of the month.