Last week, I was afforded the opportunity of perusing through Burlington High School’s main office hallways, through the art and photography studio, into the heart of BHS math with Mr. Khan’s AP calculus class. The BHS Help Desk shirt, customized for each individual tour guide, was merely the beginning of an imaginatively free session of “touring,” a time when I was able to show teachers, administrators, and parents from around the world how BHS has implemented technology into its classrooms.
I, as a tour guide played the role of the messenger, answering questions and giving a general rundown about how an iPad may be helpful in “navigating a simulated cell,” throughout a biology class, or reading “ebooks” for an English class, ultimately making highlighting and note taking more accessible and effective. We even learned how Mr. Khan uses Notability and different calculator applications for different functions in his math classes. Although I gave the tour myself, it was not simply I who was talking. Quite the opposite, no one was “talking,” because the tour was much better described as a “conversation” between administrators and tour guide, as I aimed to engage administrators with the tour rather than lecture at them.
A few prime examples of questions included: How do students use their study period? How are iPads used in foreign language classrooms? Is Burlington a BYOD school? I’d like to address each of these questions in their respective order, the first of which lends itself to explaining the truly open-minded, innovative ideology behind constructing the Burlington curriculum.
Walking into the library, administrators witnessed a Google-like “lounge” area, where students seemed to be heavily focused on their iPads. I won’t deny that students play games (in class and out of class), but I will argue that students have learned individual responsibility not only for their lives but for their education; the underlying principle is that distractions, by definition, will always exist. However, it’s the idea that we need to learn how to effectively deal with these distractions that Burlington advocates for. Thus, throughout daily 45-minute periods, students are not only working, but they are also taking charge of their education and learning invaluable life skills, the most conspicuous being time management.
The second question is one of my favorites, as I am a prospective linguistics major (yes, yes I know linguistics isn’t the same as languages). iPads are used heavily within foreign language classrooms as they allow for intensive involvement with reading, writing, speaking, and listening (especially the latter two). We were able to witness first-hand Señora DeSousa’s Spanish classroom using the iPad for a listening exercise. Personally, I find the iPad’s extremely effective and useful, as they launch students into the real world (as they listen to real interviews and read real newspapers).
Lastly, BHS is not officially a BYOD school, however this doesn’t stop students from bringing their own Mac’s (and yes even Windows at times) per their own convenience. Burlington doesn’t restrict. It only opens doors. Ultimately, like in any school, it’s up to the student to take those opportunities or not (and see whether those opportunities resonate with them). Being in the spotlight was…well…empowering. I experienced profound joy in knowing I have the power to advocate for and perpetuate Burlington’s ideology of intellectual freedom. As an avid public speaker, I had the most trouble with reigning my thoughts in at the end of the hour long tour as I had so much to say and so little time to say it. Nevertheless, this experience proved extremely invaluable and I sincerely hope to showcase Burlington and all of its talent to even more administrators in the future.