This past Saturday, 17 Quest students and I woke up early to travel to Stevenson High School to participate in the Students Involved In Technology (SIT) Conference. They were joined by 300 other students from elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools in the northern Illinois area. What is extremely powerful about this conference, in my opinion, is the fact that this is a conference for and by students. Adults are around to make sure that everything runs smoothly, but it is student run and student generated. Students propose presentations for their peers. Yes, the adults do run a few events, such as a Minecraft and a Mystery Challenge, but without students being willing to share their interests and expertise, the conference not exist. This was the third year that the SIT Conference has been held in the northern suburbs of Chicago. The conference began over 10 years ago in Bloomington as an outreach program of Illinois State University. This year, it was held concurrently in five other locations across the state of Illinois
Additionally, six of the students I sponsored, distributed into three separate groups, presented to their peers. The presentations my students offered were “Minecraft – What To Do and What Not To Do In Multi-Player Mode“, ”Minecraft – What is Creative Mode?”, “Photo Editing on Apples.” All of our presenters did an outstanding job presenting to largely full rooms of students. If you didn’t know it, you would have thought that they had been giving presentations regularly. They were polished, organized, and professional in their approach. I so proud of each and every one of them for taking the risk to share what they know. I know I learned much from each of their presentations.
I also had the chance to learn from student presenters from other schools. There was one intriguing presentation given by middle school young woman on Ubuntu programming, using a Raspberry Pi, to control a robotic arm. When I went to her session, it was completely full. I had a chance to catch up with her later and she shared her slides and we talked about her project. It was very impressive.
I was equally impressed with the both the students from my school, Quest Academy, and the other students who attended, primarily as participants. What struck me throughout the day and best exemplified by in the Minecraft Challenge session I attended with 10 of our students, was how ope all of the students were. If there was a question, a student would ask it and another student would typically share an answer. It didn’t matter what school students where from and whether they had known each other previously. This also occurred in a few sessions I attended. If a presenter ran into a problem, there usually was someone in the audience who would openly share an answer. This interchange enhanced the experience for all. I loved seeing this selfless collaboration.
I look forward to attending next year with another group of Quest students and look forward to the presentations that they will share.
I want to thank the conference organizers at Illinois State University for sponsoring this program and the site coordinators, Amy Lambert and Charlene Chausis, as well as the other adult volunteers for an outstanding experience.