Something very exciting happened here yesterday. We received a letter from Comcast and NBCUniversal letting us know that we were among the top four finalists for the 2014 Media & Technology Innovation Award. Our high school from the small, rural town of Lake City made it to the top four out of 150+ worldwide teams. Let that sink in for a minute ...
When we started this FIRST adventure four years ago, we did not even own a laptop. The technology policy at the time did not allow us to bring a laptop onto campus yet the security settings on my one classroom computer did not allow us the ability to load the computer code we wrote onto our robot. It was a problem, to say the least. We were operating on a $6,500 grant from JCPenney that got us into the program. I had recently started teaching here and somehow ended up in charge of this "building a robot" thing. I WAS NOT going to let us fail. So I did what needed to be done and we brought a laptop onto campus. The bad news is that I was called into the principal's office because someone in technology saw the laptop and decided that we would be "looking at porn or trying to take down the entire network." I kid you not.
My principal was great and let me explain. I took full responsibility for teaching my students how to appropriately use technology and explained how we could follow the policy and not bring a working robot to competition or we could be allowed a slight deviation and learn computer programming. My programmer at the time, by the way, was a freshman. How amazing is that? A freshman in high school learning LabVIEW and programming a 120 pound robot. That's what we were doing. Not cyber-bullying, not looking at inappropriate content, not attempting to take down the network or any of those other things someone was worried about.
Fast forward four years and we now have a cart of 30 laptops, a fantastic desktop with a huge monitor for computer-aided design, site licenses for AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and LabVIEW, and an industry-grade 3D printer. We've had 11 students become industry certified in AutoCAD and two in SolidWorks. We are an award winning FIRST robotics team and made it to the top four for the Media & Technology Innovation Award. This might actually mean more to me than any other honor or award we've accomplished. We've worked so hard to get here and I am so proud of my students for their entry.
Don't get me wrong, great things are happening in our district and there are folks working to improve our level of technology every day. I am very grateful for them and look forward to seeing the continued advancement in our district. I hope this award serves as a great piece of evidence for the positive impact social media and technology can have. I think it is important to let the world know what great things are going on here. That's part of the reason I maintain this blog as well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter. That's why I get written permission from all of my student's parents to use their photos on the internet. If we don't tell the world how far we've come and what great things we are accomplishing then we leave our public image up to the naysayers, and that will simply not do.
See below for a copy of the letter we received and our award submission.
ETA: Congratulations to the winners - The Holy Cows.