In September of 2013 I initiated work at Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts with a program called the Andover Innovation Lab & Student Help Desk. Students who participate in the Andover Innovation Lab & Student Run Help desk have an opportunity to explore the programming languages, software, business project or technology driven project of their choice. We also encourage the entrepreneurial spirit with students and seek to engage their desire to start something new and exciting.
In this environment we nurture the “hacker culture” of students who want to learn new programming languages and platforms. We also support their interest in becoming more fluent with the use of technology which will hopefully inspire them to look more closely at careers related to technology. We also use this students participation as an opportunity for them to share their skills with the greater community by having them assist students and teachers with the use of their technology tools and instructional technology needs.
Many students now have a range of new options for courses related to technology in their schools. In addition to the Andover Innovation Lab & Help Desk at Andover High School in the Digital Learning Department we have focused our energies on developing a meaning full track for students to enter courses such as Web Design and Development,Web & Native Applications and in the near future explore technology driven learning within a “Makerspace” culture. Course development and updating is changing at a rapid pace as is student skill development. It is not uncommon for students to explore “Hackathons” on the weekends and engage in a variety of web based code repositories such as Git Hub or learn to trouble shoot on StackOverflow online to support their independent projects.
What has inspired me as I work with these students is their engagement with the ever changing world of technology which often frustrates their older teachers and in some cases their parents as well. Students have also described to me the connections they make in this course as an opportunity to discuss with their parents the role of technology in their lives. In some cases these parents have connected in meaningful ways with their sons and daughters about technology advancements and their roles in fields related to programming or entrepreneurial endeavors.
The term “Hacker” does not have the negative connotation it once had. Many more high school, middle school and even elementary level students are exposed to programming, technology skill development and the experience of creating, learning and decoding their world with technology. We are currently crossing a bridge of understanding and communication about how technology enables us to create, build, problem solve and “hack” a future.